'I made a promise at my son's funeral to push for reform': Meldreth teen's suicide lead story on the BBC News
PUBLISHED: 14:05 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:05 16 February 2016
The father of a Meldreth teenager who committed suicide has fulfilled his pledge to push for mental health reform after his story opened both the BBC's flagship news programmes yesterday evening.
Steve Mallen has received hundreds of emails of support since he told of the tragic loss of his son Edward and the urgent need for action over the mental health crisis on the BBC News at 6 and News at 10.
The programmes focused on a report by the Mental Health Task Force, which revealed fundamental failings in the underfunded care system – and Prime Minister David Cameron was grilled over his plans to prevent further deaths like Edward’s.
Steve, who set up The MindEd Trust in memory of his son who died a year ago after being hit by a train, said: “I made a public promise to Edward at his funeral that I would investigate what had happened to him and to pressure for reform.
“I have spent the past year thoroughly researching the mental health issue, and the Prime Minister directly answering questions about his case on the national news is the outcome of that work.”
In the news report, Steve recounted the heartache of coming to terms with Edward’s death, saying: “As a father, there are no words to describe how one feels when your son’s coffin enters the church whilst you’re listening to his accomplished notes waft across the congregation.
“It’s very clear here that we have a completely broken system from top to bottom, this is not about a system that needs slight reform, or some slight change, this is about a fundamental process that we as a society have not got appropriately right.”
The investigation by the taskforce revealed that around three-quarters of people with mental health problems receive no help at all – a fact which has led to thousands of tragic and unnecessary deaths.
In the programme, presenter Fiona Bruce asked the Prime Minister if he can ‘pledge there won’t be a lack of care for young people like Edward?’ – the 18-year-old was only given a strip of pills and the names of a few websites shortly before he ended his own life.
Mr Cameron replied that he ‘can’t pledge there won’t be tragic events like that’, but that he will expand the amount of care on offer for young people.
An extra £1bn will be spent each year on mental health services by 2020, which will help treat about a million more people a year.
Steve also delivered a strong warning to public authorities in the programme, saying: “We are at a crossroads, and what we have to be sure here is that it doesn’t turn into some sort of Orwellian rhetoric where the government are always announcing ever bigger numbers and ever more initiatives and yet the experience of real people in real schools, in real families, in real communities isn’t changing on a day to day basis.”
The MindEd Trust will hold an international conference on mental health in education at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, on March 18, and Steve is currently in talks with producers about making a documentary.
To find out more, search for The MindEd Trust on Facebook.