Suicide awareness charity, The Headlight Project, is calling on the people of the Tees Valley to urge their local MP to join the Parliamentary debate on including suicide prevention in the school curriculum.
This comes as the charity has backed the 3 Dads Walking campaign, who came together following the deaths of their daughters.
The 3 Dads Walking petition recently gained enough signatures to have suicide prevention as a compulsory part of the school curriculum debated in Parliament on March 13th.
The Headlight Project was launched by Catherine Devereux following the death of her husband and local businessman Russ, who sadly died by suicide in 2018.
The three dads, Andy, Mike and Tim started walking between the parliaments of the four nations of the UK to highlight the help PAPYRUS can offer. PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide was founded in 1997 by a group of bereaved parents, who had each lost a child to suicide.
The Headlight Project started supporting the 3 Dads Walking petition after seeing the great work they were doing to raise awareness of suicide, prevention and education for young people.
Charity founder Catherine said: “Representatives from the charity met with Andy to discuss how we could support each other as we are both working towards the same goal.
“Death and bereavement is something I feel that we should be speaking to children about.
“There are lots of small charities across the country doing great work. By working together and creating a bigger voice, we hope that we can have more impact on key decisions at a government level.”
Speaking on why they are supporting the Parliament debate to provide suicide prevention in schools, Claire Cantwell, the education lead at The Headlight Project said: “Suicide is a huge problem in our area and nationally. In order to reduce future rates, it is important to raise awareness and educate children, in an age-appropriate manner.”
The North East currently has the highest regional rate of suicide in the country and has done for six out of the past 10 years. The charity provides counselling and trauma support to those bereaved by suicide, as well as play therapy for children. It provides suicide awareness presentations and prevention training for adults and young people aged 15 and above and it is close to launching a series of workshops for children, shining a light on some of the issues that can lead to suicide.
Claire added: “I believe suicide prevention in schools will massively impact families across the North East and the country as it will provide education and awareness to the future generation about their mental health and what to do and where to go when things are troubling them.”
Catherine’s sister Joanne Blackham is the head teacher at Mount Pleasant Primary in Darlington and she is supporting the petition. She said: “Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education is well embedded in the primary curriculum and often tackles some tricky issues. Teachers are in the best place to discuss challenging topics in an environment that is safe.
“Suicide affects so many families and children in our area and it needs to become a part of the discussion and curriculum. Being able to remove the stigma and talk about it can only lead to better understanding and therefore prevention.”
Charlotte Nichols, the managing director of PR agency Harvey & Hugo, has recently joined the board of trustees at The Headlight Project. She joined the charity to raise awareness of the project and provide PR consultancy. Speaking of why she joined, Charlotte said: “When I was studying for my GCSEs, a family friend who had two daughters at my schools died by suicide.
“It was really shocking at the time. At school, while everyone knew what had happened, it wasn’t really spoken about by the teachers and our peer groups.
“I’m so grateful to the team at The Headlight Project who are talking about this and encouraging others to do so and I hope it will help families across the region in getting the support they need.”
Andy Airey from 3 Dads Walking said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in this country, we need our decision makers to understand and address the issue. Attending the debate on our petition will help inform our MPs and help them make changes that will save lives.
“Thanks to those at The Headlight Project for encouraging sign-ups of the petition and encouraging local MPs to attend the debate – hopefully we can work together to save many lives across the country.”
The petition will be live until March 13th for those who haven’t yet signed and organisers at The Headlight Project are encouraging people in our local area to ask our MPs to get behind the debate and attend.
To learn more about The Headlight Project, visit headlightproject.org and to support the 3 Dads Walking, visit 3dadswalking.uk