Former Look North presenter who lost son to suicide says 'we're losing far too many good people'

Former Look North presenter Mike McCarthy has said “we’re losing far too many good people to suicide” as he honoured his late son’s plea to campaign for better mental health support in the UK.

Ross McCarthy

Ross McCarthy was 31 years old when he took his own life after a 10-year struggle with severe depression, his father said.

Speaking on World Suicide Prevention Day (Sep 10) Mr McCarthy, who is also a former Sky News and BBC correspondent, said his son thought he had turned a corner at Christmas, when he was last with him.

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

Ross McCarthy (right) with his family. His father Mike McCarthy (second right), is carrying out his late son's wishes by campaigning for better mental health support.

Mr McCarthy said: “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.

“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 said: “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?”

“Men in particular, I think, are ashamed and embarrassed to talk about their mental health. 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: “As the title suggests, it’s just a safe, non-judgmental, confidential place where men can go and open up, talk about their feelings, why they feel the way that they do, how they think they might be able to improve their feelings.

“Lots of us go to the gym to try and make a physical improvement but Talk Club is a gym for the mind.”

Mr McCarthy 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.

Mr McCarthy said tickets are still available for a fundraising gala dinner in Sheffield on October 8 which he hopes will be a celebration of his son’s life.

Samaritans are there to talk, listen and will not judge anyone: calls are free to 116 123 or you can email [email protected]