More than 100,000 people took part in 80 dawn walks around the world to raise funds and awareness for Irish suicide prevention charity Pieta House.
It will use some of the proceeds of its annual Darkness Into Light event to extend its network of crisis centres to New York. It has 10 centres in Ireland for people with suicidal ideation or those engaging in self-harm, offering free services that require no medical referrals.
The 4.15am start on Saturday saw tens of thousands take to streets across Ireland for a 5km walk in solidarity for suicide prevention.
However, an international dimension to the event had seen around 4,000 people walking in Melbourne and Perth, Australia, hours earlier. Walks also took place in Glasgow, London, and Manchester, while around 1,700 more participated in the early hours of Saturday in New York, Chicago, and Toronto.
In Dublin, the flagship walk took place in Phoenix Park, where Pieta House founder Joan Freeman said the organisation’s intention has always been to save lives and change the conversation around suicide and self-harm.
“It’s been nine years and we’ve come a long way towards reaching that goal,” she said. “However, people are still afraid to face the reality that they may know someone who’s at risk of suicide or self-harm.
“You, the people, are the most important component of all in the fight against suicide,” she told participants.
It was one of four events in Dublin, with six organised in Cork and three in Kerry. Among those taking part were Cork hurler and mental health campaigner Conor Cusack, Ireland rugby players Jack McGrath, and Orla Fitzsimons, RTÉ personality Eoghan McDermott, Fair City actress Rachel Pilkington, and Dublin footballers, including four-time All-Star Paul Flynn.
Organisers said large numbers registered on the morning and it will be a couple of weeks before the sums raised are known.
Of more than 17,500 people supported to date by Pieta House’s therapeutic services and other assistance, 5,000 sought help last year. It will set up its first pilot service in New York this summer, as part of plans to reach out to Irish diaspora who may need its services.
The US service will be run from a room in the Irish Immigrant Centre in Queens and there are wider plans for international expansion of Pieta House.
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