Walkers shine a light on the darkness of suicide
THROUGH the night they walked in their thousands to shed light on the ever-growing number of people attempting suicide in Ireland.
At 4am, 15,000 people -- up 5,000 on last year's figure -- gathered at 14 locations across the country to pound the pavements and raise much-needed funds for suicide prevention.
In Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Ennis and Killarney, people braved the elements to walk through the night before crossing the finish line just as dawn was breaking on Saturday.
Sporting stars Niall Quinn and Micheal O Muircheartaigh also took to the streets and rallied the crowds as they trooped in solidarity with the masses for Pieta House's annual Darkness Into Light 5km fundraiser.
Pieta House provides much needed help for those who may be contemplating suicide or self-harm, and some of the estimated €200,000 raised this year will go towards employing more therapists.
With running costs of €1.3m a year, Pieta House is the only suicide crisis centre in the country providing free-of-charge therapeutic services.
Official figures released in January this year show men are four times more at risk of committing suicide than women, while an estimated 600 people took their own lives in this country last year.
Pieta House reports a 93pc increase in the number of under-18s seeking help; females accounted for over two-thirds of this figure, while under-18s had the highest instance of self-harm.
It opened its second national centre in Limerick last year, as well as a new facility in Ballyfermot in Dublin.
This followed facilities in Lucan, Dublin, as well as its two outreach services in Finglas and Tallaght, Dublin.
"This walk is a beautiful way to start the day and I'm really encouraged by the fact that we now have 14 locations around the country on board for Darkness Into Light," said Joan Freeman, founder and CEO of Pieta House.
"We're getting ever closer to our long-term aim of having a Pieta House centre no more than 100 kilometres from everyone in Ireland."