Mayor Frankie Keena, Mary McCarthy, concert organser, Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and Gerard Tiernan from Pieta House at the launch of a massive country dance fundraiser for Pieta House this Wednesday, October 16 in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel.

Contacting Pieta House was ‘the best phone call I ever made'

“I was in such a bad place, but something made me contact Pieta House. It was 110% the best phone call I ever made,” the poignant words of Mary McCarthy as she recalls May of last year and the aftermath of a serious overdose over the Bank Holiday.

She had ended up in A&E in Castlebar before being transferred to a psychiatric unit, but within days she was out again to fend for herself with little or no back-up.

Feeling let down by the health services, she describes how hard it was to pick up the phone to call Pieta House, but everyday since she is so, so thankful she did.

“Picking up that phone is probably the hardest thing you will ever do but I can guarantee it is the best thing because it is the start of the rest of your life,” a smiling Mary explains in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, the venue for her fundraising dance next month to “give something back” to those who helped her immeasurably.

Living between Williamstown and Castlerea, Mary cannot speak highly enough of the care and compassion she received in Athlone.

“I had all my sessions here and I had the most amazing therapist here, she was phenomenal and I will never be able to thank her enough for what she did for me..., and they (Pieta House) were the ones who got me through a really terrible part of my life.”

“When I walked through the doors of Pieta House in Athlone, it was like walking into another world, it was so peaceful, just so beautiful and tranquil. You could feel the love and the care and the kindness in each one from the secretaries to anyone I met there,” she says, something which drives her to support a service that supported her.

So on Wednesday, October 16, her own birthday, a big dance featuring a who’s who of the country world will have everyone on the floor in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, including a new addition in recent days Tom McBride Jnr, son of legend Big Tom.

“I have Colin Kenny, Simon Casey, Olivia Douglas, Ukephonic, Jason Miles, The Ryan Turner Band, David Kiernan, Mick Flavin, Alex Roe, Keith and Lorraine, Chelsea Kelly. MC for the night is Darren O’Hara.

“It’s going to be a great night, I just really want to raise loads of money for Pieta House,” she laughs heartily. “My other huge thing is that someone who is depressed or suicidal, that’s not in a good place, if they can look at me and see 'Oh my God, Mary, she’s done the full circle, she was there and she’s here now.' - If I can give someone hope, show them there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a way back, I will have a job really well done.”

Since 2005, she had struggled with mental health issues arising from an incident from her past, and exacerbated by the breakdown of her marriage more recently. But she turned a corner because of Pieta House, and she now wants to advocate for others and change the system for the better.

“There is still light at the end of the tunnel no matter how bad it gets. And believe me last year was really terrible for me but I’m in a good place now, I’m happy and I have amazing friends,” Mary says, paying particular tribute to Liz Fogarty, Betty Browne, Martin McDermott, Nicky Hayes, Nikita Dell and one of her very close friends Heidi Messenger, who died this year and whose son Damian Soul will perform on the night.

She also thanked her children Melissa, Shannon, Jordan and Taylor, son-in-law Paul and her four grandchildren.

“I just want people to know that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to talk. For me, there is still such a stigma around mental health. I just don’t feel people want to talk about it.”

Mary is very vocal about her journey because she believes the mental health system is a “shambles” and needs an overhaul. Despite numerous attempts to get a meeting with Minister Jim Daly, who has responsibility for mental health, she has had no joy. She has now appealed to local Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, who has been very supportive of her, to help organise a meeting so she can tell her story and why the system should be changed.

For now though, her fundraiser is the main focus, and she is very thankful for the level of support from the likes of the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, 'Boxer' Moran, MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Senators, public representatives, and Midland Balloons in terms of sponsorship, and to Sgt Damien Connaughton, Sgt Andrew Haran and Ger Tiernan for their support, and not forgetting the artists giving their time for free.

Mary hopes to continue to advocate for better mental health services in the future, just next month she will be a speaker at a conference in Sligo, and she is considering training to be a counsellor in the future.

Tickets for her concert on October 16 are priced €15 are on sale in the hotel and from Pieta House, Athlone. All proceeds from the dance go to Pieta House.


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