Three Dads Walking appointed MBEs in King's Honours

Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen holding pictures of their daughters
Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen were honoured for their work as Three Dads Walking [BBC]

Three fathers who lost their daughters to suicide have been appointed MBEs in the King's Birthday Honours list.

Andy Airey, Mike Palmer and Tim Owen have been honoured for services to the prevention of young suicide for their work as Three Dads Walking.

The group completed a 500-mile walk and raised £1.4m for suicide prevention charity, Papyrus.

"All three of us in a heartbeat would swap this award, this honour, to get our girls back," Mr Owen said.

His daughter Emily died in 2020.

"For all of us, it's bittersweet because the only reason we're getting this honour is because of the work we’ve done after we’ve all lost our daughters to suicide," Mr Owen, who is from Shouldham in Norfolk, said.

Three Dads Walking on a hike
Three Dads Walking walked 500-miles and raised £1.4m for suicide prevention charity, Papyrus [BBC]

Sophie Airey died in 2018, when she was 29.

Mr Airey, from Eden Valley in Cumbria, said: "Because we’re talking about the girls, it's like they’re with us all the time.

"We never let them go."

Mr Palmer, from Sale in Greater Manchester, whose daughter Beth died in 2020, said his grief "never goes away".

"We’ve met people that have said they haven’t taken their own life because we’ve raised awareness and we talk about it, but sometimes it’s a knife edge between life and death," he said.

"And just a few little things or one thing can make a difference."

During their walks, the fathers spoke to political leaders including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer.

The Three Dads have campaigned for suicide prevention lessons – currently optionally taught to age-appropriate children – to become a statutory part of the curriculum.

Mr Owen described a public consultation, published in May, as a "massive step" but said that he wanted suicide prevention lessons to become compulsory rather than optional.

Ged Flynn, chief executive of Papyrus, said the fathers were "rightly honoured as our heroes" and had helped to start "conversations in homes and communities where families were unable or unwilling to discuss suicide".

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