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Darkness Into Light: Join the Brussels march for suicide prevention
On 12 May, registered participants will gather in Brussels' Cinquantenaire park at 4.00 in the morning and run or walk through the darkness of early morning in to the light of dawn to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention.
"Suicide is not contagious," says Brian Higgins, chief executive of Pieta House Ireland, a charity set up in 2016 whose mission is to create a world where suicide, self-harm and stigma are replaced by hope, self-care and acceptance. "Mentioning the word suicide will disempower the idea in people’s heads, so talk about it, shout about it, share it and spread it."
It is for this very reason that Sarah Ironside, having comforted a friend who lost her young husband to suicide, decided to bring the Darkness into Light event to Brussels. "The symbolism of the walk grabbed me," says Ironside. "By making it happen in Brussels highlights the issue here, among people who are away from home."
The first Darkness into Light fundraising walk was held in Ireland 10 years ago. Since then it has grown from 400 to 180,000 participants in 180 locations around the world.
The Brussels event has the support of Irish MEPs Brian Hayes, Sean Kelly and Deirdre Clune, commissioner Phil Hogan and parliament vice-president Mairead McGuinness. Hayes says: "A colleague of mine - Shane McEntee, a government minister - died through suicide. It was terrible, it left an indelible mark on all of us to do more."
The money raised will be split between Pieta House Ireland and two Belgian organistaions for suicide prevention: Centrum ter Preventie van Zelfdoding and Centre de Prévention du Suicide.
"Six people die by suicide every day in Belgium - that's 1.5 times the EU average," says Kirstin Pauwels, director of the Centrum ter Preventie van Zelfdoding. Tomas Landaburu from the Centre de Prevention du Suicide was happy to be involved with the Darkness into Light initiative because, he says: "The more we work together the more results we will have."
It is difficult to know what to do when a relative or friend kills themself. There are always lots of questions left unanswered for those who are bereaved - but Pieta House’s mission to replace stigma with acceptance may be a place to start.
"The stigmas that lead people to Pieta House are stigmas of racism, of homophobia, of transphobia, of bigotry, of oppression, of opinions of people’s net worth over their self-worth," says Higgins. "By doing Darkness into Light you are becoming part of the solution to suicide prevention."
To register for Darkness into Light - Brussels on 12 May, visit https://dil.pieta.ie/