‘MY father never spoke about his mental health because if he did he was afraid he wouldn’t seem like a real man, so he felt his only option was to end his life.’
That’s according to Thomas McCarthy from Ballinadee whose father Paddy took his life in May 2020, aged 59, without displaying any warning signs of his mental health challenges. Thomas and his family are often contacted by other farm families impacted by suicide since their Airbnb bus project featured on a recent Dermot Bannon TV show, where they shared their story.
Now, in a bid to further help others, Thomas is supporting this year’s Ag Mental Health Week which runs virtually from October 10th-16th.
He knows from his family’s experience that rural men still perceive stigma about mental health.
‘If my dad was here today my message to him would be that the first step is the hardest step, admitting that there’s a problem; but that a problem shared is a problem halved.
‘For the person who ends their life, that’s when their suffering ends, but that’s when it just begins for the loved ones left behind and that’s heart breaking.
‘Naturally, if I can help save a life that’s great, but if I can help those left behind, that’s where I can make a difference,’ said Thomas.
This is the second annual mental health week which was founded in 2020 by dairy farmers Peter and Paula Hynes from Aherla.
Peter has spoken out about his own mental health challenges in the past and points out that more farmers are lost to suicide than to farm accidents.
‘The reality is that farmers don’t realise the supports that are there; but the bigger problem is the stigma that exists in the community,’ he said.
The message they want to hit home is that the benefits of speaking out and seeking help, far outweigh the risk of any stigma.
‘But unfortunately if someone feels suicidal, and if they see this stigma, it’s nearly impossible for them to ask for help,’ Peter said.
That’s why the events for the virtual awareness week will be streamed on their Facebook page, allowing people to attend anonymously.
Global likeminded stakeholders including farmers, families impacted by suicide, vets and doctors who share a commitment to addressing the issue of mental health within the agriculture industry, will address various events during the week, and Peter has invited others to join the conversation on social media using #AgMentalHealthWeek.
The panel discussions will stream live on Facebook @AgMentalHealthWeek and Thomas will contribute to the event on October 16th which takes place at 7pm.