Darkness into Light takes place this year on Saturday May 11 as members of the Athlone community gather to show their support for those who have been bereaved by suicide.
The eleventh hosting of the event, which will commence at 4.15am from Athlone Town football stadium at Lissywollen, and follow the same route as in 2018, continues to raise awareness in the global fight against suicide and self-harm.
Last year, 1,530 people registered to attend the Athlone event and raised €37,594 to support vital services.
Since Darkness Into Light began with just 400 participants in one location in 2009, dedicated supporters have helped raise almost €20 million, which has enabled the 24/7 helpline remain open for people in crisis, free of charge.
Darkness into Light is in aid of the Pieta House, a suicide and self harm centre which has supported more than 30,000 people since 2006.
The Athlone Pieta House centre, located on Sean Costello Street, has helped in excess of 600 clients in the Midlands area.
Gerard Tiernan of Pieta House Athlone explains the grave reality of suicide in Ireland today and its need for global awareness.
“At the moment in Ireland we see eight suicides a week and we are a small population. That is eight families lives being destroyed, a whole class or workplace being affected by suicide, it has a knock on effect. The legacy suicide leaves behind is a huge problem.
“You see it with car crashes or if someone is diagnosed with cancer, at least people can understand. You know what happened, there is nothing you could have done, but with suicide people will always be left with those questions, ‘what if’. It is very sad for families, friends and work colleagues,” Gerard remarked.
With Ireland’s youth having the fourth highest suicide rates in Europe, the unrealistic expectations promoted by the internet and social media play a huge role in young people’s mental health.
“It is not reality, it is not life. Young people are thinking that they have to live this life, look a certain way or give out the news that everything is brilliant, but behind that PC or phone it is not actually great.
Linked to social media, Gerard noted that communication levels and self expression are dangerously lacking, issues that contributes to feelings of loneliness and loss of hope.
“Talking is the biggest thing. If you can talk, it goes a long way. It sounds very simple, but it really is. That is why Darkness into Light works because it brings communities together, like here in Athlone we would have about a 1,500 people walking together. Conversations will be happening. How we as a society engage with one another and the attitudes we have must change too.
“It is also about how we treat one another, it is a matter of life or death. If we can treat people with respect, kindness and compassion that will have a positive impact on somebody. If we don’t, that is when we see suicides taking place. So that is apart of the message that needs to get out there,” Gerard concluded.
Pieta’s services are free of charge and do not require a doctor’s referral. The funds gathered from Darkness into Light go straight into the services which Pieta House provides.
For more information and assistance visit the Pieta House website: www.pieta.ie Or contact the helpline on 1800 247 247.