Sunday 15 September 2019

Family of man who took own life after alleged bullying at work accuse HSE of 'airbrushing' his case

John Broderick Photo: Pieta House
John Broderick Photo: Pieta House

Ralph Riegel

THE heartbroken family of a man who took his own life after he allegedly suffered relentless bullying at work accused the Health Service Executive (HSE) of an attempted "air-brushing" of the case.

Cork North Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy recorded a verdict that father-of-one John Broderick (35) took his own life at the Munster Joinery premises in Cork on August 28 2018 - just 24 hours after he had been treated at the emergency department of University Hospital Kerry (UHK) for an attempt at self harm.

He was released from UHK having not met the criteria for being subject to an emergency admission.

The inquest heard a HSE psychiatrist assessed the young man as having "a passive death wish and no active suicide plan."

However, solicitor Eimear Griffin, acting for Mr Broderick's widow, Sandra, hit out at the HSE for not sending a representative to the inquest - and warned that the family "are not entirely satisfied with the statement of the HSE."

"There is an air-brushing from the HSE," she said.

"Sandra Broderick's sole motivation is to prevent another death like this going forward. Mrs Broderick's motivation is that this (kind of tragedy) would be prevented in the future."

"There is no representative from the HSE here today - there should be."

"We are not (satisfied with some of the HSE statement). But that is for another forum."

Dr Kennedy initially opened the inquest last December but adjourned it, having heard evidence, so that he could write to Munster Joinery, one of Ireland's biggest construction supply firms, after Mrs Broderick said her husband had suffered relentless bullying at work.

The coroner sought information on the firm's anti-bullying policy - and whether any bullying incidents involving Mr Broderick had been reported.

Dr Kennedy noted that he had received a number of letters from the public over the media attention the inquest had attracted last year - and stressed that inquests were not a forum for apportioning blame.

In a letter to the inquest from solicitors Malone Hegarty, on Munster Joinery's behalf, it was pointed out that Mr Broderick was not directly employed by the firm but by a contractor working on site.

The solicitors confirmed that both firms had anti-bullying policies - and both confirmed that no incidents of bullying involving Mr Broderick had ever been notified to them.

Munster Joinery had, immediately after Mr Broderick's tragic death, implemented a critical incident response which involved offering counselling and supports for all workers on site.

Mr Broderick, who lived in Killarney, Co Kerry, took his own life on August 28 2018 after going to work at the Cork construction supplies plant site.

He had attempted to take his own life just days earlier.

His widow, Sandra Broderick, wept last year as she told her husband's inquest that he informed the person allegedly bullying him that he suffered from depression and pleaded for the "mind games" and bullying to stop.

"It was very clear he was just pulling strings and John was just a puppet," she sobbed.

Mrs Broderick said things were fine at work for a short time before the alleged bullying then resumed.

She said her husband was "roared at" in front of fellow employees and effectively belittled.

"John had his good days and his bad days," she explained.

"He could go to work and be really happy and he could also come home crying."

She said her husband would often dread on Sunday having to return to work on Monday morning.

Mrs Broderick claimed her husband had been bullied since he started work at the joinery firm by a named individual.

He had been actively looking for another job but, in the interim, had told his wife: "I just have to learn to deal with him."

Mrs Broderick said that individual had played "mind games" with her husband.

She said that, in desperation, her husband admitted to him that he suffered from depression in a bid to get the alleged bullying to stop.

But, after a few days, she said things continued as normal.

Mr Broderick had proposed to his wife at the finish line of the 2011 Cork City Marathon in which they had both competed.

He had carried the engagement ring with him throughout the race - and his wife described him as "the most romantic man in Ireland."

However, the inquest heard that he had been very upset in the days before his death and had told his wife "she would be better off without him."

The young man had contacted both his wife and another family member to say 'goodbye'.

He was taken to UHK on August 27 2018 having attempted to self harm.

In a letter to the inquest, a HSE psychiatrist said that: "All steps in managing this gentleman's (case) were taken."

Mr Broderick did not meet the criteria for an emergency admission under the Mental Health Act.

He indicated a desire to return to work to doctors, which was a positive sign, and agreed to engage with mental health support systems.

UHK doctors said they stressed to Mr Broderick that he required treatment and supports and he indicated he would engage with services.

The HSE statement said that, in some cases, it takes time for a full disclosure to be achieved from individuals about the actual state of their mental health.

A critical care nurse tried to ring Mr Broderick as part of that support network at 11am on August 28 but he had taken his life just over an hour earlier.

Mr Broderick had rang his wife earlier that morning, having gone to work, to tell her he loved her.

He was upset and she immediately raised the alarm.

A full search of the construction supplies plant site was undertaken but he was found dead by a shocked employee.

Dr Kennedy described the case as "very harrowing" and "raw."

"You did everything you could to help John," he told the Broderick family.

Suicide/Mental Health:

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

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