Suicide Prevention and the National Curriculum Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Suicide Prevention and the National Curriculum

Jason McCartney Excerpts
Monday 13th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Nokes. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for securing this incredibly important debate and for his wider work on mental health, for which he has become well known since coming to the House.

Some 17 people a day take their own lives in the UK—not just today, but tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and onwards. That is just a statistic, but in the last hour and a half, we have heard many personal, emotional and tragic stories of the individual people—the names—behind that statistic. When I woke up this morning, I listened to Mike, Andy and Tim from 3 Dads Walking on Radio 4 as I was getting ready and packing my bags to catch the train to London. I heard about Emily, Sophie and Beth, which made it very personal, so I thank the 3 Dads for coming along. I also heard that they will be meeting the Education Secretary and the Prime Minister, and I look forward to hearing more about that.

When I returned to Parliament in 2019, I pledged and wanted to do more on suicide prevention and mental health after losing two close friends who took their own lives. I thank the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) for the work that we do together on the all-party parliamentary group on suicide and self-harm prevention. We had an emotional meeting last week with James’ Place, the Samaritans and Mike McCarthy, who told us about his son Ross and the walk that he will be doing with the Baton of Hope in June—lots of people are walking and raising awareness. Mike is coming to Parliament with Steve Phillip, who lost his son Jordan.

After listening to the debate for an hour and a half, I ask: what can we do? I am a dad to two teenage daughters and I often—in fact, almost every day—think that I would like to turn off the toxicity, pressures and unreal expectations of social media; I really feel as though I want to switch it all off on their behalf. I also want to erase the isolation, disruption and anxiety that the pandemic caused for young people. I do not think that either of those two wishes is achievable or realistic, so what is?

In memory of Emily, Sophie, Beth, Sean and all the other young people we have heard about, we should get behind the motion. We should see how we can introduce suicide prevention and more support for mental health in the school curriculum in an age appropriate and sensitive way, of course. I hope that we will do our bit here in Parliament and I look forward to hearing from the Minister. To Mike, Andy and Tim, I say, “If you keep walking, we will keep talking.”