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‘We’re losing far too many’: Ex-Sky News journalist on honouring late son’s plea to campaign for mental health support

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A former Sky News correspondent who is honouring his late son’s plea to campaign for better mental health support has said “we’re losing far too many good people to suicide”.

Mike McCarthy’s son Ross was 31 when he took his own life after a 10-year struggle with severe depression.

Speaking on World Suicide Prevention Day, Mr McCarthy, who also worked as a BBC correspondent, said his son thought he had turned a corner at Christmas, when he was last with him.

Mr McCarthy's father Mike is carrying out his wishes
Image: Mr McCarthy’s father Mike is carrying out his wishes

But Ross died in February, leaving a fiancee, Charlotte, and a three-year-old son, Charlie.

Mr McCarthy told the PA news agency: “Ross left a long farewell letter in which he addressed each member of the family and asked us if we would campaign for better mental health support.

“After 10 years of struggling with severe depression – and I mean struggling, as Ross was a true warrior – he tried his very, very best to help himself and to reach out to others for help.

“And he thought that he had reached salvation.

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“But we’ll never know for sure why he took his life. We think it’s because the depression came back with a vengeance when he was least expecting it.”

He added: “So anything that I can do now to honour Ross’s request to campaign for better mental health provision in this country I will do and the family as a whole is taking comfort from the fact that there are so many people out there who are supporting us in what we’re trying to achieve.”

Mr McCarthy has helped set up a new group in Sheffield, where he lives, to encourage men to talk to each other.

He said: “Let’s talk about it. Let’s be open about it. Let’s bring it out of the shadows.

“Suicide is lurking in a dark corner and, I think partly because of that, it doesn’t get the funding it deserves in terms of suicide prevention, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

“This is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. If that was anything else, we’d be talking about how do we solve that?”

He said: “Men in particular, I think, are ashamed and embarrassed to talk about their mental health.

Ross McCarthy suffered with depression for many years
Image: Ross McCarthy suffered with depression for many years

“We’ve got phrases like, Man Up and Big Boys Don’t Cry, and all that kind of stuff. And I think it reflects this cultural attitude towards men and emotion.

“We’ve got to talk about these things because bottling it up has led to really serious problems – really serious problems.

“We’re losing far too many good people, men and women, to suicide.”

The new Talk Club group met at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground for the first time this week.

Mr McCarthy said the club has been extremely supportive and he is hoping the idea will spread across the football world, with its direct access to young and middle-aged men.

He said his son, who lived in Stockton-on-Tees, was completely devoted to his family and was due to marry Charlotte but their plans had been put on hold by the pandemic.

“He really made us laugh as a family,” he said. “We’ve got some great memories that we cling on to.

“I think despite everything, there was hope.

“Given the right medical support, I think Ross could have survived.

“I think to have been put on a six month waiting list after 10 years of struggling also had a devastating impact. That was something that he found difficult to understand.”

Mr McCarthy said: “I just don’t have the words to explain how much we miss him every day.

“But he’s there with us and I like to think that he’s sort of looking down on all of us with the charity work and thinking ‘yeah, they’re doing what I asked them to do’.”

Mr McCarthy presented BBC’s Look North regional news programme in Leeds before becoming Sky News’s bureau chief in Manchester.

More than £24,000 has been raised in memory of Ross for Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and more details can be found at www.justgiving.com/remember/844507/Ross-Mccarthy.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK