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Anne Hailes: More important than ever to walk from darkness into light

The Darkness into Light Clogher Valley committee. On May 7, around 200,000 people around the world are expected to take part in Pieta's dawn walk to raise funds to fight suicide and self-harm.

WHO on earth wants to get up before sunrise to go for a five kilometre walk?

Well, thousands all over the world will be doing just that on Saturday May 7. Why? To walk from the dark of night into the light of day, from Chicago to Costa del Sol, Luxembourg to Hong Kong, Derry to Cahersiveen, a wonderful global experience as the sun rises and torches can be turned off and surroundings come into soft focus as dawn breaks.

In Ireland at 4.15am people will be on the move, many thousands will walk for charity and there's a walk near you - in fact, in Northern Ireland 16 in total with others preferring to meet friends to do their own walk or perhaps go for a swim. No matter what, the money raised is vitally important.

WHY WOULD YOU TAKE ON THIS CHALLENGE?

To raise money for Pieta in the Republic and its partner charities in Northern Ireland.

The Pieta charity was established in Co. Dublin in 2006, three years later 400 walkers took on Phoenix Park; this year 200,000 will take part all round the world.

Pieta operates solely in the Republic, specifically to offer one-to-one therapeutic services for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, people who have attempted suicide and those who are engaging in self-harm.

A doctor's referral is not required nor is a psychiatric report. Staff are fully qualified and everything is free of charge.

Helping raise the profile of mental health and the work of Pieta and their partners is Electric Ireland, who have sponsored these events since 2017 and realise the importance of walking from the darkness of despair into the light of hope.

This is the first walk for two years and there's excitement already as people get together to plan. One of the most beautiful mornings was surely when a group in Donegal organised a boat from Burtonport to Arranmore Island where they walked into the sunrise accompanied by a cuckoo, perhaps applauding them, perhaps in wonder.

Once they had walked to the lighthouse, greeting surprised lambs on the way, it was downhill to the community centre for singing and dancing, scones and hot tea, perhaps a wee warmer as well.

Then it was back on board the ferry and home in time for breakfast. They plan to surprise the lambs again in May.

Paschal McAnenly is one of the committee members in Ballygawley, Tyrone and organiser for this year's walk in his area.

"I've done the walk five times and the commitment of people is impressive," he explains.

"We'll have over 1,000 this year and there will be hope and joy also emotion as there will be those who have needed support in the past and those who are actually experiencing suicidal thoughts so we'll have helpers along the way looking out for someone perhaps walking alone, they'll give a smile, say hello, hopefully engage that person in conversation if they wish.

"We'll have musicians and there'll be a feeling of hope and meaning and awareness because the number of people needing help is rising due to all the pressures at the moment, cost of living, Covid, social media bullying and projecting the perfect life that we can't have."

In 2020 Pieta delivered over 52,000 hours of counselling, managed over 70,000 crisis support calls and texts and directly supported over 600 households devastated by the loss of a loved one by suicide.

Their 24 hour free crisis helpline in the Republic is 1800 247247 or text HELP 51444 if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, engaging in self-harm or have been bereaved by suicide. To make an appointment call 0818 111 126, no referral is needed.

In Northern Ireland there are 14 charities to contact, all supported by Darkness into Light donations.

For further details of help in your area phone the Niamh Louise Centre in Dungannon on 028 8775 3327.

Counsellors at Lifeline support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to listen and help in confidence. Their number is 0808 808 8000.

Samaritans are also 24/7 and their freephone number is 116123.

Register for the walk at darknessintolight.com.

Sadly the demand for the service is increasing so the Darkness into Light Walk is more important than ever this year.

On May 7, around 200,000 people around the world are expected to take part in Pieta's dawn walk to raise funds to fight suicide and self-harm.

ON OUR DOORSTEP

With the current chaos at airports and seaports, more and more people will be deciding to stay at home and experience excellent Irish hospitality.

Donegal is a real draw and there are fetes and fairs all over the county. Easter is a time when many families pack up and head for the west of Ireland, where this Easter one of the attractions will be the well known Kilclooney Country Market.

It's held in The Tavern on the road from Ardara to Portnoo in Co Donegal - not only hand-made crafts from chutneys and jams, jewellery to crochet blankets, drift wood to ceramics, but also tables of fresh bakes, cakes, scones and tarts and others with fresh vegetables, and you can have breakfast, tea and coffee.

It's happening on Saturday April 16 from 11am to 1pm - guaranteed craic and something for everyone.

For more information and map, search online for 'Kilclooney Country Market'.

Not far away along the road to Rosbeg, Dawros Bay House is holding its first holistic week from Tuesday April 19 to Sunday April 24.

The week will feature holistic treatments, workshops, walks and talks, yoga, tai chi, aromatherapy, Reiki, cold water therapy, and horse trekking. There is also laughter yoga, as well as art classes and at the weekend on Friday and Saturday, a holistic craft fair featuring home baking.

Donegal is certainly a place of healthy fun and frolics. More at 'Revive at Rosbeg' on Facebook.

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