Suicide Prevention and the National Curriculum Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Suicide Prevention and the National Curriculum

Lee Anderson Excerpts
Monday 13th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Lee Anderson Portrait Lee Anderson (Ashfield) (Con)
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It is indeed a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for introducing the debate, and the petitioners, the 3 Dads over there in the Public Gallery—Andy, Tim and Mike—who are doing a fantastic job.

I also thank my good friend, Graham Lynk, who is sat in the Public Gallery. He lost his son, Sean, to suicide in December last year. Graham is a brave man. He is a hard man and a gentleman. Like me, he is an ex-coal miner—we have done many a shift down the pit together. He is one of the bravest men I have come across in my life, but the loss of his son has broken him.

Sean Lynk was a brilliant young man. He was 30 years old when he took his life. He was a big, strong, confident, good-looking lad. He was a handsome man; he had his mother’s looks—and his mother’s brains, I think, Graham. He was a lovely young man. When he walked into a room, he lit it up. Everyone wanted to be around him. Everybody liked Sean.

We all loved Sean. I was drinking with him in the Dog House pub just a week before he took his own life. I never saw it coming. He was such a lovely young man; his death shocked the whole community and left many of us asking why. I would sit with him at weekends with his mum and dad, swapping old stories about our mining days. Sean would be sat there laughing and giggling with us. We never knew; he must have been in pain. On the face of it, he was a happy man. He was a good footballer and loved his sports. He loved his family and friends. He always surrounded himself with great, loving people. There were no signs, but something must have been wrong.

Sean’s dad, Graham, believes that Sean was using the dark web and looking at things that he probably should not have looked at. He was tapping into this dark, horrible web, which was giving him dark thoughts. But who knows? The police still have Sean’s phone, so we are yet to get to the bottom of that. I know the internet can be a dangerous place and can target people with the algorithms and do some horrible stuff—it can target vulnerable people. I am glad that the Online Safety Bill is going some way to address that, but we need to go further.

I thank the charities and support groups that are helping young people who have dark thoughts. In my patch, we have a charity called Enlighten the Shadows, which was set up by a young man called Rory Green, who had some dark thoughts himself. He and his partner lost their baby through a miscarriage. He felt hopeless and worthless—he felt like ending it all. He was in a really bad, dark and horrible place, but he got through it and he set up a support group online through Facebook and social media, and it had a website. He was absolutely astounded by the number of young men contacting him who had dark thoughts and suicidal thoughts. He reached out and got some other people on board, and he talked to men on a regular basis. He tells me that they have probably saved about 100 lives so far just through men talking to men. I know it is a big problem with young ladies and schoolgirls too, but the vast majority of suicides I have come across have been young men. There is no rhyme or reason for it.

Keeping quiet is not an option. People have to talk about this. It is all well and good telling people that they must talk, but they have to have somebody to talk to. At the moment, it can be very difficult for people from poorer families in more deprived areas, because a lot come from broken families so they do not always have great family support and people to talk to. Make no mistake, this is an epidemic, but it is not a means-tested epidemic. It does not matter whether a person is rich or poor, whether they are successful or unsuccessful, whether they come from a council estate or a country estate. It goes for anybody; it can affect anybody in any walk of life. I give a big shout-out for Rory and his group for doing that great work.

Probably everybody in the Chamber has been affected by suicide—my family has—but we do not talk about it. I travelled down with Graham this morning, and we had a long conversation. We MPs do not see inside our friends’ heads, and what goes on in their minds. Graham goes to bed every night and thinks about his son, but he thinks about his son with a rope around his neck—that is what goes through his mind. I cannot get my head around that: for a man to watch a little boy grow up from a baby, be his pride and joy, and then take his life in that way. Graham feels broken, he probably feels guilty, and he feels hopeless. I am here today to tell Graham that he is none of those things. He is not guilty and he is not hopeless. Graham is working with the Enlighten the Shadows suicide charity, and he is going to raise thousands of pounds for it. He is going to cycle 1,000 miles in 10 days, and he is doing some running as well. He has the support of the whole community. Graham wholeheartedly supports the idea of putting suicide prevention on the school curriculum, helping people and getting people to talk to save some lives.

I ask the Minister to please look at the families in the Public Gallery. They are broken people. We need to see less of those families coming to this place. We need to intervene, we need to get this subject on the school curriculum and we need to save lives.