Darkness into Light is a shining success in Dundalk
4.15am, May 12th, at DKIT, thousands of people in Dundalk struck out together to stand against suicide and self-harm as dawn approached.
A sea of yellow, brightly lit, marked the scene as 3,800 people supported the Pieta House initiative, which was set up in 2006 by Senator Joan Freeman. Seán Kelly Event Director for Dundalk, and an organising committee member, describes the turnout and the atmosphere on the day and speaks of hopes of establishing a Pieta House in Louth in the upcoming year.
"The Darkness into Light event went fantastically well! 3,800 people turned up, which was an increase of 1500 last year! We are over the moon. The real highlight of the event was at the start -seeing the amount of people who turned out! It was a sea of yellow! The support of people of the town of Dundalk in just incredible: from businesses to individuals – it was amazing. Dundalk FC deserve a mention, as do Total Produce who support us so much. But so many got on board – too many to name really!"
Starting early in the morning at dawn is meant to represent the hope of Pieta House. The aim is to alleviate the stigma of mental health, support people who are suffering from depression, offering them and their families a light in the darkness both symbolically and quite literally. People walk or run a five kilometres to show their solidarity, strength and above all - hope.
No matter how dark things seem, there is always a light amid the despair – that is the message. It also is an event for the supporters who advocate mental wellness and for those who may have lost someone to suicide. Seán Kelly describes the mood of the people who turned out:
"It was upbeat on the day, but also for a lot of people – they were remembering loved ones who have passed away because of suicide, so it was emotionally charged. It is proof of community support and a can-do attitude. People are afraid to talk but the stigma is slowly being eroded away. Our T-shirts finally arrived at midnight – we had a distribution problem but the event was about so much more than a T-shirt, it is about the elephant in the room. We need to be more open and address the stigma.
"To think we started this in 2017 as a conversation between 4 people in the Crown Plaza, and in the space of months this event was organised - giving hope to people and spreading so much awareness about mental health. To think that in 2 years we have achieved so much and raised €60,000 last year – and we're hoping to have raised even more money this year!"
Young Participants for Darkness Into the Light
Leanne Ní Mhocáin, who runs run Dundalk Study Academy, organised secondary school students and the students were able to register through the Dundalk Study Academy for the event. Speaking on their experience of the event, Leanne describes how important it was for the young students to know there is help out there in times of need.
"The tutors and students from Dundalk Study Academy walked the Darkness into Light event in Dundalk on Saturday morning. With the Junior and Leaving Certificate exams looming many of our students are stressed.
“We felt it was important to get the students involved in such an important event and to help them to realize that there is always someone to turn to in times of need. It was so wonderful to see the whole community come together to support such a great cause; from the young to the old, to the doggies and the mascots. We were delighted to be a part of something so special. The event organisers deserve massive credit. We can’t wait for DIL 2019!"
A lot of plans for the future
Darkness Into Light was a huge success in Dundalk and across Ireland. There was entertainment on the day to rally the troops, DJ Smiley, the Emmanuel Community Church choir, and all the volunteers kept everyone inspired! And this isn't all – the future looks even brighter for the people of Louth, as Seán Kelly explains:
"The big thing that we're planning is set up Pieta House for Louth! We are organising three committees in different parts of Louth in order to set a steering committee, which will liaise with Pieta House. So that is our big end goal – to set up a Pieta House in Louth!"