Very recently I took place in the ‘Darkness into Light’ walk in aid of Pieta House.
If you haven’t heard of it, this may require a bit of clarification.
What is Pieta House?
The service they provide is simply amazing. A person at risk can get referred in a number of ways: by their GP; by a family member; by a school guidance counsellor or chaplain; or simply by themselves.
Once you get to Pieta House, you will meet with a counsellor who will work with you twice a week for a number of weeks. The counsellors are all highly trained. They may be clinical psychologists or psychotherapists.
In the case of someone who has attempted suicide, their family can also avail of support from Pieta.
As I said, the service is incredible. And what’s more, it’s free. Yes. Free.
What is the Darkness?
There has been a lot of talk in this country about suicide. And it is right that we bring this into the open. According to the CSO 507 people died by suicide in Ireland in 2012. The CSO hasn’t given more recent years yet, but, anecdotally, the numbers are climbing.
Something which shocked me more when I first learned it is that Deliberate Self Harm (DSH) is a huge issue in this country. Each year approximately 12,000 people are treated in hospital for DSH. Think about that. 12,000 people in such spiritual & mental pain that the only way they can cope is to hurt themselves in the hope of letting some of the pain go.
And what is the Light?
We are starting to talk, and there is a tangible move towards openness in this country in talking about suicide and DSH. Sports people are talking about their own personal battles, celebrities are, normal people are realising it’s ok to not be ok. More so, it’s ok to talk.
Many of the old myths around Suicide and Deliberate Self Harm are being discarded, and people are now, I think, more informed. We know that a suicidal person can be helped. We know that those who harm themselves can be helped. This isn’t to dismiss the pain that people can go through. If we can reach through their pain, we can help.
Darkness into Light
This change in our attitudes is most visible to me in the participation in Pieta’s ‘Darkness into Light‘. From a small start a few years ago, Darkness into Light had about 80,000 participants this year.
Yes, 80,000 of us who were bonkers enough to get up at 3 AM and walk or run for 5 KM. This is the main fundraiser for Pieta each year, and remember, it supports an organisation that gives free counselling to those who need it.
I took part in the Cork Darkness into Light and joined a couple of thousand other people. All grinning, laughing, chatting, having fun even though it was wet and dark. Did I say we were bonkers?
The great thing about 80,000 people isn’t just the money that we all raised. We all increased awareness about Pieta, and we all helped in our own many, many little ways to let others realise it’s good to talk.
Gathering near the Quad in UCC waiting for the off
After the finish we had a chance to remember those who have died to suicide. This wasn’t grim, but a chance to remember those we cared about, and the hope that others can be helped.