THIS Clondalkin fireman will cause quite a stir when he runs the Dublin marathon over the weekend.
Padraig 'Paudi' Thompson will be among the 11,000 people taking part in the annual marathon on Monday, October 27, but unlike fellow sports he will be running with a child mannequin on his shoulders.
Paudi wants to highlight the plight of those with mental illness. He plans to complete the 26-mile event with an added 40kg on his shoulders, with the help of friends.
The fireman at Tallaght station is calling on fellow participants to lend their support during the race.
By helping to "take the weight off his shoulders", other runners will show how invaluable it is when friends and family members offer help to someone in moments when they feel completely alone.
Due to his line of work over the last decade, Paudi has witnessed the pain that results from mental illness.
"I have seen the devastation suicide causes amongst young people and the heartache it leaves behind for those families who have lost someone very young," he said. "Most of the time, I can leave things I've seen at work and not think about them when I go home, but when it comes to seeing families grieving the suicide of a child, it really strikes a chord."
The dad-of-two has completed seven marathons all over the world, but admits he is not 100pc ready for next week's event.
"I know I physically won't be able to do it, I've been injured so I've only been out running the last few weeks," he said.
"I'm really relying on other people helping out along the way, taking the load for a few minutes or sharing the weight."
While the overall suicide rate in Ireland is still considered low by international standards, Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently urged society to take a collective responsibility to Together with Irish charity Suicide or Survive (SOS), Paudi hopes to raise awareness that help, support and education is always available.
"I've no professional background in this, but the things I've seen recently have touched a nerve," he said.
More detail at http://www.mycharity.ie/event/padraig__thompson_s_event/