A Brighter Day: Looking ahead to Darkness into Light 2019 3 months ago

A Brighter Day: Looking ahead to Darkness into Light 2019

It's 4:15am, still dark and a little cold but you know that in just an hour those warm yellow rays of dazzling sunshine will be lighting up the sky with a golden hue.

A crowd has gathered, all for the same reason, at the same time.

The walking starts, each footstep bringing you a little bit closer to the pleasant heat of a beautiful day. An amber glow begins to flood what was once darkness, step by step, minute by minute getting brighter and brighter. Everyone is smiling and chatting while they walk, making new friends along the now lit path.

The symbolic meaning behind why each person got up at this ungodly hour starts to become evident in the sunlight. Before you know it, 5km of walking has come and gone, along with the blackness of the night. The birds are singing, and the energy and excitement has radiated from one walker to another as they bask in the glory of the sunlight.

Darkness Into Light is a hugely popular event that takes place every year throughout the country. The symbolism behind the early morning walk seems to have taken a special place in many people’s hearts and their calendars.

Starting in 2009, it was organised in Ireland by Pieta House as 400 people set off at dawn in the Phoenix Park to raise the funds needed to provide the best service they can.

The event has grown massively worldwide, and this year is expected to attract more than 250,000 people across 200 venues in 19 countries. The walk starts in the early morning while it’s still dark, and participants walk for 5km into the light of day, a symbolic act representing the road to a brighter future for suffering people. A journey from despair to hope.

It is more than just a walk, it’s a global movement against self-harm and suicide. Everyone knows someone that has been affected by these issues and it clearly shows from the massive growth in the event over the past few years. Through dedication and support, it has raised €20 million for support services.

This year, Pieta launched a piece of public artwork called the "Wall of Hope" that encourages people to leave their own messages of hope to remove the stigma around suicide and self-harm by starting a conversation. Looking out for one another is a part of being human, knowing someone cares and you’re not alone can play a major role in greatly improving someone’s life.

In the 13 years that Pieta House has operated, it has supported over 40,000 people with therapy. It provides counselling services free of charge to those engaged in self harm, suicidal crisis and those bereaved by suicide. Darkness Into Light raises valuable funds to provide the services these people need to cope with life and the daily struggle of mental health issues.

In 2017, nearly 400 families across Ireland were left without a family member because of suicide. Many of the participants in the event have been directly affected by suicide and self-harm.

Brian McEvoy, Regional Fundraising Manager and volunteer for Darkness Into Light stressed the importance of talking about your mental health.

"The number one thing is to talk, no matter what it is you need to talk to someone. Whether is someone close to you, a parent, a friend, whoever it is, just talk to them. If you don’t talk about it, it will never be resolved."

Brian lost his brother to suicide, which led him to becoming involved in the event.

"The vast majority of people that you will talk to involved in Darkness Into Light unfortunately have been affected by suicide somehow. I think when we got involved it was really out of necessity to help someone else so they wouldn’t go through what we had gone through in the past with the family.

"Unfortunately, we didn’t know about the organisation prior to my brother's suicide but... we just had to do something. It gives us support by helping someone else. We’re doing something better out of this whole situation."

Pieta CEO, Elaine Austin, said: "Darkness Into Light is vital for fundraising, for raising awareness and for bringing people together from rural communities to major cities across the globe in a spirit of solidarity, comfort and compassion in giving all hope."

Nobody is alone, there is always someone to listen. As a wise man once said: "It’s okay not to be okay". This year, the event takes place on 11 May and starts at 4.15am in a number of locations across the country.

800,000 people a year die by suicide, that’s roughly one every 40 seconds. By the time you have finished reading this article, six people will have died by suicide.

A chilling reality that Pieta aims to change through Darkness Into Light.

If you are affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, you can call at their regional numbers found here.