Lamh Dhearg GAC, Belfast dedicate Irish News 'Well-being' award to local community
LAMH Dhearg chairman Peter Kane paid a heartfelt tribute to the people who took part in the Darkness Into Light suicide awareness walk after the west Belfast club won the 'Best Well-Being' award at The Irish News Schools, Clubs and Volunteer awards day.
Over 2,000 people took part in the walk – many of whom had lost someone to suicide.
In winning arguably the most important award at last week's event at Belfast's Wellington Park Hotel, Kane said: “It gives you a chance to benchmark yourself and see where you are compared to your peers in terms of your promotion and what you're doing.
“We had people from sandwich makers, people doing security, car-parking duties, musicians – I suppose this award is a wee thank you to them and for them to know their efforts are appreciated.
“And it helps to raise the profile of our club and the Hannahstown area.”
The walk began at the club gates on the Hannahstown hill at 4.15am.
“The residents were out, their lights were on, the bunting was up,” Kane added. “The walk has become a real parish initiative now and is very therapeutic.”
The Darkness Into Light initiative began a decade ago in Dublin and has now spread across 17 countries in over 200 locations.
Kane believes with more awareness around suicide people will seek help.
“Just after Easter there was a spell of over 10 suicides in west Belfast. They were sisters, brothers, fathers, sons of all ages. It just wasn't just young people and I think it hit a lot of families this year.
“It's about opening up a conversation that it's okay not to be okay. We are now talking about it more, whereas it used to be a taboo subject. Everybody has problems but it was a time when nobody talked about it. We are now talking about it.”
Working in partnership with the Suicide Awareness Support Group on the Falls Road, Kane explained: “We have a number of strategic areas at the club and health and well-being is one of them. It's really a joint effort, it's no one individual. It's a joint effort with ourselves and Hannahstown Community Association.
“We came together and we thought there was a great opportunity to do something for the community. It gives people an outlet, somewhere to come.”
On Lamh Dhearg's 'Well-being' entry, the judges said: “In May 2018 this club had 1,600 members of the public walk the roads through the night for Darkness Into light raising £38,500 for Pieta House and Suicide Awareness and Support Group and this year the figure had grown to over 2,000 taking part.
“It was very poignant for club members to see their club fence decorated with yellow ribbons with the names of those from their local community that they have lost to suicide. The event provided much comfort and help to families who have experienced suicide of loved ones.”
Kane said: “The people of west Belfast have shown in times of trouble we pull together – and that's what the Darkness into Light walk was.
“We made a big appeal to the Gaels of Belfast through the ‘Pass it On' initiative and the clubs all came out and supported it. And what we also noticed this year was the amount of young people that participated in the walk.”
The Lamh Dhearg club is also encouraging its younger members to take up leadership positions within the club.
“We've now 24 boys and girls undertaking the ‘Gaisce – The President's Awards' which is about building their leadership skills and their resilience.
“They'll go on a two-day trek through the Mourne Mountains, and they're all volunteering – cleaning up the graveyards, helping with the pitch, refereeing, which is great to see.”