'I want people to know they are heard': Family of Cork farmer who died tragically urge people to reach out 

'I want people to know they are heard': Family of Cork farmer who died tragically urge people to reach out 

Paddy McCarthy was a kind husband and father who took great pride in his farm and his family.

The family of a farmer who died by suicide at the grave of his mother and brother have appealed to those who experience emotional distress to seek help with charities such as Pieta House.

Paddy McCarthy (59) of Cloncouse, Ballinadee in Cork was a kind husband and father who took great pride in his farm and his family.

The father of four loved Bruce Springsteen, dancing, parties and "having the craic" and had a great presence in any room.

Cork County Coroner's Court, sitting in Bandon, heard that on the morning of May 1 year Paddy carried out his farming work alongside his daughter Rachel at their farm in Ballinadee.

Rachel, like all of his children, had a close bond with Paddy.

In her Garda statement read in to the court she said that she and her father completed a number of jobs that morning after 9am. He instructed her about other work that needed to be done.

She considered sitting down in the kitchen with her father to write a list of work to be completed on the farm.

Instead she saw Paddy leave in his car. She "had no idea what was to follow" and presumed he had left to buy cattle feed.

Later that morning the news was broken to her that her father had been found dead by suicide at the grave of his mother who had passed a few years earlier.

Paddy was a triplet and the grave was also that of his brother Tom who died in a farming accident in 1968.

Two witnesses, an elderly woman and a young mother, gave evidence of stumbling across the body of Mr McCarthy at the County Cork graveyard.

The elderly lady said that she was visiting the graveyard when she observed someone lying on the ground. She called out and realised that it was Paddy McCarthy who she "knew to see."

She got the attention of a nearby younger woman and the paramedics and and priest were called to the scene. Mr McCarthy was pronounced dead at the scene.

Garda David Barrett said that he attended at the scene at 11.55am where he observed the body of Mr McCarthy lying at the grave. He told the court that a note written by Mr McCarthy had been found at the house.

He said in evidence to Coroner Frank O'Connell that Mr McCarthy had been found at the grave of his late mother who had died three years previously. The family grave was also that of his brother Tom.

Mr O'Connell having heard the evidence of the case said that he didn't think he had ever presided over a "sadder one".

He offered his heartfelt condolences to the family saying that Paddy 'must have been suffering'. He added that he was sure the community at large felt the pain of the family.

Since the passing of Mr McCarthy his family have become mental health advocates raising over €32,000 for Pieta House.

Help is available

Rachel McCarthy has urged those who are in emotional pain to seek help when in need.

"There are so many people out there who can provide help. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and leaves such destruction and devastation behind for families."

Rachel says that often people wear masks and conceal their pain.

"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?” 

Meanwhile, her brother Thomas says that there were no warning signs leading up to the suicide of their father.

Thomas was living in Whistler north of Vancouver in Canada when his father passed away during lockdown.

He had to make the lonely 23 hour three flight journey home to be reunited with his grieving family who live near Kinsale.

He said his father had a passion for the farm and was a hardworking man who worked long hours. Thomas says Paddy was great fun.

"He loved Bruce Springsteen. 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?' It is surreal."

Thomas has urged farmers to be conscious of their mental health.

"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."

The family participated in the Pieta House "Darkness in to Light" event during the first lockdown and walked down to their local church and back in memory of Paddy. 

A lockdown funeral he says brought its own set of challenges.

"The funeral was very different. There was only 10 of us in the crematorium. Because of social distancing 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."

The airbnb bus owned by the McCarthy family
The airbnb bus owned by the McCarthy family

Since the passing of Paddy his children have channelled their grief in to action and have started converting an old double decker bus in to an AirBnB. They hope to have it up and running by next Spring.

Thomas said the siblings wanted to do something different to keep them occupied during lockdown.

The bus will be situated on the family farm in Ballinadee. Thomas insists his late father would be delighted with the business aspect of the project if a bit bemused by all they have done in recent months.

"Give a farm to young people and what is the first thing they do? Put a bar in the shed!

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 loving wife Ann and his children Anna, Thomas, Rachel and Niall.

The family has asked the public to continue to donate to Pieta House in this challenging time for the charity.

Donations can be made at here.  

Last year West Cork farmer Tommy Moyles urged farmers who are feeling under strain to reach out to others to discuss feelings of depression and isolation in what at times can be a difficult livelihood.

Mr Moyles, who operates a beef farm in Ardfield, Clonakilty, Co Cork said that it was vital for farmers show solidarity with each other.

"I would say (to farmers) that they should keep the heads up and talk to people. One of the challenges of farming is that you are dealing with uncontrollables. Weather, plants, animals and markets. It is important for people to keep talking to people."

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.

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