Northern Ireland news

200,000 people take part in Darkness into Light walks across Ireland

Debbie Porter, pictured at the Darkness into Light, walk at V36 in Newtownabbey. Picture by John Murphy Aurora/ PA

AN estimated 200,000 people took part in pre-dawn walks across Ireland in a bid to raise awareness of suicide and self-harm.

The Darkness Into Light campaign saw participants gather at 4.15am and walk through the dark before taking in the sunrise.

There were nine locations across Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Newtownabbey, Derry and Rostrevor, where people gathered in the early hours of Saturday, with a walk also held at Black Mountain on the outskirts of Belfast.

One of the biggest events in Ireland took place in Phoenix Park, Dublin, where the event started in 2009. An estimated 15,000 people gathered to walk from Chesterfield Avenue into the light, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, who plays Michelle in Derry Girls, was also among those to take part in the events in the north.

The aim of the Darkness Into Light campaign is to de-stigmatise suicide and raise vital funds for suicide prevention, suicide bereavement and self-harm.

When the event first began in 2009, just 400 people walked in Dublin, but since then it has spread across Ireland and internationally with around 180 walks held across the world this year.

Funds raised go towards the suicide and self harm charity Pieta House, which offers counselling for those considering of suicide and also consolation to families who have lost somebody to suicide.

Claire McAllister, from Electric Ireland which sponsored the walks, said support for the events had been " just phenomenal".

"It's really to build awareness and get people talking about mental health and suicide prevention," she told the BBC.

"It's just trying to get rid of the stigma and, this year, push that message of kindness."

Heather McCleanaghan,Jo Venus,Chloe McCluskey and Co Co the dog pictured at the Dartkness into Light Suicide awarness walk at V36 in Newtownabbey. Picture John Murphy Aurora PA.

Karina Kruk pictured at the Dartkness into Light Suicide awarness walk at V36 in Newtownabbey. Picture John Murphy Aurora PA.

Leona Fagan pictured at the Dartkness into Light Suicide awarness walk at V36 in Newtownabbey. Picture John Murphy Aurora PA.

Participants pictured at the annual Darkness Into Light fundraising event in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile 

Nicola Mclaughlin pictured at the Dartkness into Light Suicide awarness walk at V36 in Newtownabbey. Picture John Murphy Aurora PA.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) joined Brian Higgins (left) from Pieta House and Pat O'Doherty (right) of ESB, to join 15,000 others taking part Darkness Into Light in Dublin's Phoenix Park. Picture by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

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