The family of a farmer who died by suicide at the grave of his mother and a brother who passed away as a child has appealed to those who experience emotional distress to reach out to charities such as Pieta House.
Father-of-four Paddy McCarthy (59) of Cloncouse, Ballinadee in Co Cork was a humorous and kind husband and father who took great pride in his farm and his family. He loved Bruce Springsteen, dancing and parties, his family recalled.
This week Cork County Coroner's Court, sitting in Bandon, heard that on the morning of May 1st of this year Paddy carried out on jobs on the family farm alongside his daughter Rachel. Like all of his children, she had a close bond with her father.
In her statement read to the court, she said that they had finished some chores around 9am. He told her about a few other things that needed to be done, which left her thinking that they should sit down in the kitchen and draw up a list.
Instead, she saw her father leave in his car. She “had no idea what was to follow” and presumed he had left to buy cattle feed. Later that morning, she learned that he had been found dead.
Her father had been one of triplets. Another one of the triplets, Tom, who died in a farming accident in 1968, is buried in the grave, alongside his and Mr McCarthy’s mother, who died three years ago.
Two witnesses, an elderly woman and a young mother, gave evidence of stumbling across the body of Mr McCarthy at the County Cork graveyard, as they came to visit their own relatives’ burial plots.
Saying she quickly realised that it was Paddy McCarthy, who she “knew to see”, the elderly lady said she called a nearby younger woman. A priest and paramedics were quickly called, but Mr McCarthy was pronounced dead.
In his evidence, Garda David Barrett, who was at the graveside before noon, told Coroner Frank O’Connell that a note written by Mr McCarthy had been found later at the family’s farmhouse.
Mr O’Connell, having heard the evidence of the case, said that he did not think he had ever presided over a “sadder one”.
Offering his heartfelt condolences to the family, Mr O’Connell said Mr McCarthy “must have been suffering”. The local community, he told them, felt their pain.
Since his death, the McCarthy family has raised over €32,000 for mental health charity, Pieta House. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and leaves such destruction and devastation behind for families,” Mr McCarthy’s daughter Rachel said.
Appealing to people who are in emotional pain, and who offer wear psychological “masks” to disguise their difficulties, Ms McCarthy said: “There are so many people out there who can provide help.”
“I want people to know that they are heard and that others are struggling too. It is up to my generation to break the taboo around mental health. The brain is just like other parts of the body.
“It is a muscle and we need to work on it. We go to the gym to work on our bodies so where is there a stigma around working on our mental health?” she told The Irish Times, speaking after the inquest.
Her brother Thomas, who made a 23-hour journey during lockdown to travel back to Ireland to be with his grieving family from his home in Vancouver, Canada, said there were no warning signs leading up to the suicide.
Simply put, his father was “great fun”, he said. “He loved music. He loved dancing. He just loved life. That is why it is such a shock. He really loved the farm. You think, ‘How could he leave behind something he loved so much?’”
Throughout his life, his father had worked long, hard hours. “It is such an isolating job anyway. They might have the mart once a week or some social event once a week. It is important that they go speak to someone or talk to someone.
“The ones who don’t speak, or talk, they are the ones who do it [suicide]. You think, ‘How could I not have seen it? How could I not have done anything? But sure there is no way you could have known.”
During the first Covid-19 lockdown earlier in the year, the McCarthys took part in Pieta House’s Darkness into Light, walking down to the family’s local church and back in memory of their father.
The funeral itself was hard, with only 10 in the crematorium. “People couldn’t really come over to the house or come to the church. But we are very lucky that we have a great support system with great family and neighbours and friends and cousins we are close to,” Thomas McCarthy said.
Since his passing, the McCarthys have tried to keep busy, partly by converting an old double decker bus into an Airbnb, which they hope to have up and running by next spring. It was “something different” to do during lockdown, Thomas McCarthy said.
His father would, he was sure, be delighted by the commercial side of the idea, if bemused by the notion itself: “Give a farm to young people and what is the first thing they do? That’s what he’d be saying,” his son laughed.
“We wanted to do something different to keep ourselves occupied during lockdown. We wanted to be productive. We wanted to do something together because we are impulsive and creative.”
Mr McCarthy is survived by his wife Ann and children Anna, Thomas, Rachel and Niall, along with surviving triplet Gus and other siblings. The family has asked for donations to be made to Pieta House.
Donations can be made at www.pieta.ie
The Mind Our Farm Families is a dedicated suicide and self-harm phone line 1890 130 022 between IFA and Pieta House. The phone line for IFA members will put farmers and their families in direct contact with a Pieta House-trained therapist.
Members of the public who need emotional support are asked to contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247. People in distress can also text the word Help to Pieta House on 51444.