Joan Freeman, CEO of Pieta House, a national charity for the prevention of self-harm and suicide, has praised the Westmeath people who are getting behind Pieta House West which opens in Tuam this summer.
And she’s anticipating a positive Westmeath turnout for the Darkness into Light walk which begins at 4am in Mullingar on May 11.
“It’s one of the best experiences you can ever have,” she said.
It ends as dawn is breaking and this year there will be 20 counties walking at the same time to raise awareness and funds to tackle self-harm and suicide.
“That’s something, isn’t it?” she said, speaking recently to the Advertiser about the work of Pieta House and her recent visit to Athlone.
Pieta House offers free support to those who find themselves suicidal or self-harming, and has a free support service for worried families and friends.
They offer assessments and follow-on appointments with a counsellor, usually within days.
People from Westmeath will be able to use the Tuam service, which has extended its opening hours to late nights and weekends in other locations and she’s encouraging the families to look out for each other.
Ms Freeman recently gave a presentation at the conference of Irish Lions Clubs in Athlone which reportedly left the audience in tears.
She was stunned to get a standing ovation.
“But the speech probably hit home,” she said, pointing out that she spoke about high levels of male suicide.
“It’s important that we’re fearless here. More people are saved by family and friends and we encourage people to reach out and look out for the men in their lives,” she said.
And she agreed there is a lot of pressure on families who feel very responsible.
“But it’s not about ordinary people saving lives, it’s just about people being our eyes and ears and then contacting us,” she said.
She said the reason families and friends don’t contact support services is that they truly believe suicide won’t come to their door.
“They believe the person will come through again,” she said. This is because families have often supported their loved ones through challenging times in the past.
She said Athlone Lions were enthusiastically involved in the Tuam project from the moment they realised it was coming to the area.
“The Lions are fearless,” she said, smiling at the irony of the comment.
“They were courageous in being behind Pieta House when nobody wanted to be involved with an organization working with suicide,” she said of the national organization.
Funds raised in Westmeath, added to those raised in Galway and surrounding counties helped to acquire the Tuam site, develop and fit out the new facility, and contribute to funding the project for the first two years.
Their Lucan number for help or advice is (01 ) 6010000.