The father fighting to save lives after losing son to suicide

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Following the tragic suicide of 18-year-old Edward Mallen in 2015, his father, Steve Mallen, made a promise to his son at his funeral that he would investigate the failures in his care and would seek to reform mental health care.

Sharon Allison, partner and head of medical injury at Ashtons Legal, is a regular contributor to both regional and national media on issues of mental health and patient safety and represented the Mallen family throughout the inquest process.

The findings of the inquest highlighted the shocking failings of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust that contributed to Edward’s death. Since then, Steve has become a governor of the trust and plays a vital role in helping them understand the needs of patients and family members. He also regularly appears before select committees in Westminster as part of the movement to improve mental health services and has been described by the chair of the health and social care select committee, Jeremy Hunt, as ‘the country’s most formidable campaigner on suicide prevention’.

Two years after the death of his son, Steve co-founded the Zero Suicide Alliance. Supported by various NHS trusts and backed and funded by the government, the alliance focuses on suicide prevention strategies and changing attitudes at every level of society. They work with bereaved families, businesses and charities and have so far provided suicide-awareness training to over 1.7 million people. As part of a global ‘zero suicide’ movement the programme provides information from anywhere such as schools and workplaces to late-night taxis, bridges and clifftops. They offer a free virtual coach, quizzes and online training so that everyone can know how to help someone who may be struggling and can intervene at the earliest opportunity.

Sharon Allison comments: “It is incredibly rare in my experience of dealing with these types of claims and bereaved families, to find a family member who is able to find unbelievable inner strength and resolve to do what Steve has amidst truly devastating personal loss and grief. He has experienced first-hand, the inquest process, which often families have to navigate alone unless they have been able to seek a solicitor to help them, and then the civil litigation system thereafter, which is painful and damaging to families at their very lowest ebb.

His tireless efforts to help reshape a broken system, to help an increasing number of people suffering with mental health problems, in the hope that he can spare a family what his own have suffered and continue to do so, is quite remarkable. I sincerely hope that all the necessary stakeholders genuinely get behind the movement to reshape and improve our mental health services, which by far, have no parity with the focus on physical health.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some more organisations and charities that can provide support:

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