Two Mayo towns shining a light for suicide awareness

Officially launching Darkness Into Light for 2014 is Jim Dollard, executive director of sponsor Electric Ireland; Sinead Kennedy, RTE presenter; Joan Freeman, CEO of Pieta House; and Eoghan McDermott, RTE presenter.

Officially launching Darkness Into Light for 2014 is Jim Dollard, executive director of sponsor Electric Ireland; Sinead Kennedy, RTE presenter; Joan Freeman, CEO of Pieta House; and Eoghan McDermott, RTE presenter.

The dawn walk which symbolises hope in facing depression and suicide, Darkness Into Light, has been launched for 2014 with two locations in Mayo announced.

Westport and Ballina are both participating in the Pieta House five-kilometre awareness initiative, which hopes to attract some 80,000 people nationwide at 40 different locations as the sun rises on May 10.

This year Darkness Into Light walks will also take place in London and Sydney for the first time.

Westport is staging the walk for the third year while 2014 is the inaugural Darkness Into Light event for Ballina.

Tom McEvoy, funding and advocacy with Pieta House, said the Westport walk has been a huge success, so much so that it prompted Pieta House to add a second walk in Mayo.

“Last year, we had upwards of 1,200 taking part in Westport,” he said. “It was absolutely amazing. It really caught the attention of people from all over Mayo, so we were encouraged to consider another area in the county to promote Darkeness Into Light.”

In 2013, the walk, in the grounds of Westport House raised €17,000 for Pieta House, the intervention centre for suicide and self-harm.

“That money went directly to funding the new Pieta House centre in the west in Tuam, which opened on December 3,” added Mr McEvoy. “We are seeing more people from Mayo accessing the service because we now have that centre in the western region. Previously, they would have had to go to Dublin.”

The community in Ballina have really got behind the Darkness into Light initiative for 2014, he added.

“Working with local people in Ballina, we’ve designed a fantastic walk taking in the lovely St Muredach’s Cathedral and Belleek Woods. We have a strong committee there and you can see this is a message they really want to get across.”

Darkness into Light starts at 4.15am and participants walk together as the sun rises, symbolising the path back from the darkness of suicide and self-harm into the light of the support and help that is available.

“Nationally, we want to bring that message to every home in Ireland by giving people the opportunity to take part in this walk in their locality,” said Mr McEvoy. “It is a way of showing there is hope and help out there for people considering all sorts of options in their lives, which are not necessarily positive options. We are bringing that message of hope and light, that there is somewhere to go, there is someone who will listen.”

Contact Pieta House in the west on (093 ) 25586.

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