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Walking from darkness into light for Pieta House

SINCE 2006, Pieta House has been bringing light to thousands of people affected by suicide and self-harm across the country.
One man who knows only too well how the centre for the prevention of self-harm or suicide can help people in need is Ennis man, Tom McEvoy.
His family turned to Pieta House for help following the tragic loss of his brother, Adrian, who died by suicide.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, another brother found it difficult to cope with the loss, despite his family’s best efforts to support him. Tom credits Pieta House with saving this brother’s life. He believes that if they had known about the service when Adrian was alive, he too would still be here today. That is why he is urging people to come out and support the service’s fundraising Darkness into Light walk/run, which takes place in Lees Road on May 7.
Tom recalled that after the loss of Adrian in 2007, “It was a traumatic time for us, having never come into touch with suicide before. We had to gather all the fold together and try and come to terms with the fact that Adrian had died and that he had taken his own life. We were just all questioning why and how but no answers ever came back to us. That’s the difficult thing with dealing with suicide, there’s always these open-ended questions. You say to yourself, ‘God I should have known’ but people are very good at covering up their tracks.”
After Adrian’s death, Tom’s other brother returned overseas where he was living at the time. However, the family soon became aware that he was not coping with the loss.
“He found it difficult to talk about his feelings and his emotional trauma. Eventually, he started to go through it and he did admit that he wasn’t feeling well and that was the button that needed to be pressed. We searched very seriously to find a way to help him. It was a very difficult search. We went through all the usual channels of doctors. We went to the hospital and we were referred to a few places by the HSE. It was just by coincidence that we got speaking to somebody about what was going on and they gave us this name of Pieta House and it was just such a happy occasion to find this service,” he said.
The free-of-charge service has five centres around the country, including national centres in Limerick and Dublin, and since opening its doors in 2006, it has saved 4,000 people.
“It’s a fantastic service and it has helped so many people so far. Some of the time, that help can be the difference between life and death. If we had known about Pieta House, it would have been the difference between having Adrian and not having him now. Pieta House worked unbelievably well with my other brother. He is the light that has come through the darkness. It can’t be underestimated the value of being able to talk about suicide and to be able to get help. If you have a broken leg, you will go to a doctor, whereas there is no real outward sign of depression or of somebody being in a dark, dark place. They too need to seek professional help, you can’t decide to deal with it in your own way,” Tom explained.
He urged that suicide be spoken about openly in a bid to create greater awareness. He also advised people to watch their own friends and family very closely for any signs that they may be depressed. “As I said, people are good at covering up their tracks but people should be observant with their friends and relations. We’re going through some very difficult times in Ireland at the moment with the economy. It’s so important to stay in touch with people, with your friends or relations and if there are any different signs to do with their habits, it’s necessary to find out a little bit more about how they’re feeling and try and work out if they need help or if they are in a bad place.
“We never had an association with suicide until Adrian died. It was something that was never discussed at home and you’d almost be afraid of broaching it. It’s a subject that can be brushed under the carpet very easily because it’s a difficult one. Since I have spoken openly of our own family’s experiences, we have had a huge amount of positive feedback. Suicide is an extremely difficult subject to speak about but the more we speak about it, the more awareness there is of the problem out there and what can be done to help.”
On Saturday, May 7 at 4.30am, people will gather in the darkness at Lees Road to take part in a 5km walk, jog or run to raise funds and increase awareness of the work of Pieta House. The event will end as the sun is rising, a symbol that people affected by suicide and or self-harm can come out from the darkness.
“Approximately 10% of our assistance in monetary terms comes from the Government and the rest is from fundraising. It’s absolutely essential that we fundraise. The idea of the walk originated from Boston and our CEO, Joan Freeman, has readily admitted that it wasn’t her idea. She heard of this wonderful concept and symbolic gesture and she has taken that idea and embraced it. It’s been running for the last three years in Dublin and has been a great success and now we are doing it down here for the first time. We’re sure the people of Clare will come out and take part in the walk.
“We’ve had a great reaction to the walk so far. A lot of people have already registered online at www.pieta.ie. Everyone can take part, if a family want to get involved, they can. You can do it at your own pace, if you want to walk it, jog or run it you can,” Tom added.
There are currently five Pieta House centres in Ireland, the latest house to open being Pieta Mid-West in Mungret, County Limerick. This centre caters for people from Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary. The aim is to have sufficient funding to create a centre within 100km of the next. Tom is hopeful that ongoing discussions with the Government in relation to funding could eventually mean a possible centre for Clare.
“It’s purely down to funding but there could maybe be an outreach centre in Clare. Joan has been in discussions with the Taoiseach so there is hope there. The more resources that become available, the more we can reach and the Darkness into Light event is one way of doing that,” he concluded.
Pieta House Mid-West can be contacted at Ardaulin, Mungret, County Limerick 061 484444. For details, check www.pieta.ie. To register for Darkness into Light in Ennis, go to darknessintolight.pieta.ie.

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