AN Ennis champion athlete has revealed how running helped him to overcome bouts of depression.
Ultra-marathon runner, Keith Whyte, who recently won the 100km ice-marathon in the Antartic, has lauded the work of Pieta House, the self-harm and suicide prevention service.
Speaking at the Clare launch of the 2015 events, Mr Whyte urged people to attend the fundraiser in huge numbers.
While the 35-year-old athlete never experienced suicidal tendencies, he did suffer from depression in his early 20s and found running helped to lift his mood.
In addition to raising vital funds for the charity, he said the Darkness into Light walk would help raise public awareness and general debate about depression, which is still considered something of a taboo subject.
“Depression can happen to anyone at any time. I think deep down most people have suffered from depression in some form. A lot depends on a person’s coping skills and having the right people around them to prevent it becoming a chronic condition.
“Mental illness is like getting a physical illness; once it happens, a person should seek help. Depression is still very much a taboo subject in Ireland. It is not something people like to come out and admit, compared to something like cancer.
“Young males dying by suicide is getting very prevalent over the last few years. I have lost friends through suicide. I think public awareness is a big factor. A lot of people seem to be afraid to say they are suffering from depression.
“The work that Pieta House do is amazing. Not only does Darkness into Light raise a huge amount of funds, it also raises public awareness and helps people to come forward and speak out.
“It has put mental health out there on a new level. If a person can open up and talk about their difficulties, I think it would help a lot,” he said.
Councillor Mary Howard, who has been involved in the organising committee for Pieta House for five years, described Darkness into Light as a special, unique event that creates a huge amount of public awareness about the need to tackle depression and suicide.
While the committee includes a relatively small number of people, Councillor Howard said it has managed to overcome big challenges, such as moving from Lees Road to Ennis Courthouse to cater for increasing numbers that have grown from 500 the first year to 3,500 last year.
The Fine Gael councillor said it offers people an opportunity to remember loved ones they have lost through suicide and those they could have lost who got the right care to help them cope with depression.
Once the walk is completed, she said participants have a smile on their faces when they meet others for refreshments and a discussion.
Growing up she says cancer was known as the big ‘C’ because it was seen as a life sentence, while now this had been replaced by suicide.
She stressed the big challenge is to arrive at a situation where people are no longer afraid or reluctant to seek help for depression.
By Dan Danaher