Members of a Cork family devastated by suicide are helping to bring the first-ever Darkness Into Light (DIL) walk to a Gaeltacht community.
Lorraine Scannell has participated in the event each year since the loss of a family member in 2009 but is encouraging the community in Baile Mhúirne to support the 5km walk on May 11.
In tandem with the walk, a local committee is organising a 'Safe Talk' suicide alertness training workshop tomorrow at the Mills Inn in Ballyvourney.
The free workshop for adults, run by Cobh-based volunteer group Breaking the Silence, prepares participants to identify people with thoughts of suicide and connect them to life-preserving resources.
The international Darkness Into Light (DIL) aids the charity Pieta House while also raising awareness of suicide and self-harm support services.
“My family was devastated by suicide 10 years ago and I always wanted to contribute in some way to the efforts of Pieta House,” Ms Scannell said.
“Pieta House not only offers free counselling to people suffering from suicidal ideation but also supports family and friends who have been bereaved by suicide.”
She had no difficulty in assembling a committee of willing volunteers to organise the Ballyvourney event.
They all got behind me straight away and the work they have been doing to make this happen for our little village has been phenomenal; it really goes beyond words.
She noted: “Every week in Ireland 10 people die by suicide – about 520 families a year suffer the loss of someone they love and are left surviving a pain greater than pain itself, an infinite source of grief.
“In 2018 alone, Pieta House saw 8,000 people in a state of crisis, treating people from the age of four right up to their 80s."
Equally important for Ms Scannell, however, is the show of support that Darkness Into Light can offer those in her own community who may be in need of help.
“The DIL campaign we hope to run in our community aims to end the stigma by driving the message that it’s ok not to be ok and that you are not alone.
“It’s as much about the awareness that support is out there, as about the monetary value of contributing towards what Pieta House do,” said Lorraine.
“We are walking to encourage anyone who is suffering to seek help and to let them know our community is standing behind them. No one is immune, no one - regardless of your age, job, postcode, bank account, how you look, or how talented you are.
We are walking to stand with and applaud the enormous bravery and courage of those who unmask their struggle in seeking help every day.
The walk, which begins at 4.15am, also serves one more purpose, said Ms Scannell: “We are walking because often, for those who die from suicide, it can be the case that their death overshadows their life and memory. Suicide was just one day of their lives.
“On May 11, we will walk to reflect and remember those we have lost to suicide, their full lives, their character, their laughter, and how much they were loved.”
She also emphasised that training members of the community in ‘Suicide First Aid’ was another positive step.
“It’s very important that people are educated and know the signs.
"The HSE are training doctors and consultants but they’re not the people that are out in the community, that are noticing changes in people.
"What’s needed is for taxi-drivers, hairdressers, teachers and others to have this knowledge, so that when you do spot these signs you are able to conduct a conversation with the person in order to get help for them.
A lot of people edge around the subject if someone isn’t feeling themselves, but the correct response is to ask them straight out ‘are you having suicidal thoughts’ and, in a lot of cases, the weight of the world is lifted off their shoulders, because this is a silent scream for help.
“Most people avoid the direct question because they are afraid of putting the idea into the person’s head and because they feel powerless and don’t know what to do if the answer is yes.”