'We have to admit that we need help' – Cork murder-suicide family fundraises for mental health services

The Mitchelstown family of three men killed in a murder-suicide say they want to raise awareness of mental health issues after suffering the tragedy that devastated their community
'We have to admit that we need help' – Cork murder-suicide family fundraises for mental health services

Carmel O'Gorman, Cork Mental Health advocate, Stephanie Hennessy, her grandson, Jack Hennessy, and his mother, Elaine Hennessy.

The family of three men killed in a murder-suicide say they want to raise awareness of mental health issues after suffering the tragedy that devastated an entire North Cork community in February.

The bodies of brothers John, Paddy and Willie Hennessy, were found at a farmhouse in Curraghgorm near Mitchelstown and beside a nearby river.

Paddy's Hennessy's daughter Elaine discovered the bodies of two of the men, and she and her family have grappled with the senseless events of that day ever since.

She says she could never have thought something so horrific would befall her family. 

"They were the nicest men you could ever meet. So easygoing, they lived simple lives. My dad was one in an absolute million," she said.

"In your wildest dreams, no one imagines anything this horrific would happen to such lovely people."

All the extended Hennessy family could do in the wake of the tragedy was support each other.

Elaine Hennessy's four children are 12, seven, three and and just 16 weeks old respectively. She says she's tried her best to stay strong for them. 

I’m trying my best to be strong for them, to teach them that no matter what happens, keep going and show that better days are ahead – I know that’s what my dad would have wanted.

Now, the Hennessy family want to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly those affecting men. 

She and some other family members, along with friend and mental health campaigner Carmel O'Gorman, are planning to hold a sleep-out on the night of Saturday, May 1. 

Brothers Willie and Paddy Hennessy from Curraghgorm, near Kildorrery were found dead in a suspected murder-suicide in north Cork in February. Picture Seán Burke/Provision
Brothers Willie and Paddy Hennessy from Curraghgorm, near Kildorrery were found dead in a suspected murder-suicide in north Cork in February. Picture Seán Burke/Provision

At dawn, balloons will be released in memory of the Hennessy family and all of those lost through mental health issues.

"Even with this situation, if you don’t talk, your body takes the toll," Ms Hennessy said on Cork Today with Patricia Messenger on C103 on Monday morning.

"Talking about it definitely helps. You don't even realise the weight that it lifts until you do talk."

Ms Hennessy tragically lost her brother to suicide nine years ago next month. She first attended counselling in the wake of his death and found it "absolutely life-changing."

"I think everyone, even kids in secondary school, should be in counselling. Anyone can benefit from it," she said

"A lot of kids don't know why they’re angry or why they're upset. Counselling teaches you how to cope."

Ms Hennessy believes the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the issue. Prolonged waiting lists for HSE counselling services are discouragingly long. 

She chose to support Cork Mental Health Foundation for her fundraiser because of the low-cost counselling options they provide to people in need of their services.

People can’t be left to wait. Intervention is needed at the start, not when you’re depressed and suicidal.

She says there is a particular stigma around men showing emotion and admitting weakness. 

"I have three sons and I just want them never to be bottling stuff up and to be open.

"We have to admit sometimes in our lives that we need help. It is OK not to feel OK," she added.

  • Taking part in the socially-distanced sleep out are Elaine Hennessey, Stephanie Hennessey and Jack Hennessey, Carmel O'Gorman and Michael O'Gorman. The group will be posting pictures and videos on social media throughout the night and morning.
  • You can support the fundraiser on the Cork Mental Health Foundation website.
  • If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please see mentalhealthireland.ie for a list of support services or phone the Samaritans free on 116 123

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