Cindy O’Connor of Pieta House reveals how the worldwide fundraiser has helped Donegal people open the doors of the new Northwest Pieta House.

Cindy O’ Connor, Pieta House

Ms O’Connor, the Chief Clinical Officer of Pieta House today highlighted the importance that Darkness Into Light holds in Donegal this year and why people should get up out of their beds extra early this morning and join the walk.

The Northwest Pieta House will officially open in Letterkenny on May 15th, and it was thanks to the determination and generosity of the community that this day has finally come.

At 4.15am on Saturday morning (Friday night), people all over Ireland and the world will take part in a 5K walk as the sun rises. The sponsored walk raises funds and awareness for Pieta House to help people in suicidal distress or engaging in self-harm.

Ireland’s 11th Pieta House will be established in Donegal, and Cindy said the charity is forever grateful to the fundraisers who take part in Darkness into Light and help make the centres possible.

“Seeing a sea of people in yellow is so moving, it’s a magical sight to see people supporting us and us supporting them. We couldn’t be any more grateful to those people. They are the people who are keeping the doors open and they are the ones saving lives,” Cindy said.

Cindy was involved in the recruitment of therapists and administration staff for the Northwest Centre, which she said was a privilege.

“In some ways it was the easiest, in other ways it was one of the most difficult things to do. The people of Donegal are just wonderful. They are so warm and they have all the academic qualifications and the personalities for the roles,” Cindy said.

Up to ten people from Donegal, Derry and surrounding areas have been employed at the new centre, which will be driven by the ethos of professional compassion and care.

“I would expect that when we open in Letterkenny on the 15th of May we would be quite busy. It is a service that is much needed for the community. We would never impose ourselves in an area. We wait for the community to invite it and that’s what happened in Donegal.”

“The service is free, you don’t have to have a letter from your GP and you don’t have to have any money. It’s provided by professionals, and all staff are accredited and highly skilled in their area,” Cindy said.

As well as counselling, the centre also offers bereavement services and a helpline, with prevention, intervention and postvention support for families affected by suicide.

“None of this would be achievable if not for the public that trusted us. The whole service is routed by compassion and care, we provide a warm voice on the phone or a cup of tea and a place to talk,” Cindy said.

Pieta House has grown over the past decade to employ 270 staff. Some 5,500 people received support from the service in 2016, which Cindy sees as a positive number in relation to the nation’s attitude about mental health.

“It’s really changing the social landscape of how we view suicide in this country. When we first set up I didn’t think there would have been 5,000 people who would want to talk about mental health.”

“We saw 5,500 people last year, thankfully we didn’t see 5,500 suicides. That shows that there is hope, you can recover.

“I would tell people in Donegal today to wake up and get up and join up! This walk is all about hope!”

Cindy will be travelling from Dublin to Killarney today to take part in Darkness Into Light, which continues to be a special day for her each year.

“It’s a very beautiful event, we’re really excited about it and there is a wonderful sense of achievement once it’s over.”

“It’s important to people out walking who lost someone to suicide. There is a lovely sense of solidarity, and there’s nothing richer than seeing a community coming together to support each other.

“It has become a real movement – we’re all getting up for one purpose. It remains an issue that continues to be addressed. The finish line of the walk is only the start for Pieta,” Cindy said.

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Already 109,000 people have registered for Darkness into Light this weekend and Cindy believes they will break last year’s record of 130,000 once more people join in tonight.

Darkness Into Light is Pieta House’s best fundraising event. The charity receives 14% of its funds from the government and must source the rest from donations.

If you want to take part in Darkness Into Light 2017, CLICK HERE to find your nearest venue: You can also find out how to support a Darkness Into Light participant by clicking here:

Featured image: Chief Clinical Officer Cindy O’Connor, by Humans of Dublin for Pieta House