In the little hours of Saturday morning, I like many others walked the 5km route in aid of Pieta House and The Samaritans. I was surrounded by so many people who have been affected directly or indirectly by mental health including those who have sadly lost their loved ones. The sea of yellow t-shirts could only put a smile on your face encouraging love and hope to all.
At 4.15am in Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor, speeches were made by the organisers, the ribbon was cut by a young fundraiser and we were off, into the pitch-black forest. We followed the pathway marked out by candlelight which led us along the Fairy Glen Trail and as instructed by the organisers, this first part of the journey was to be done in silence, for a time to reflect. This was filled with raw emotion as the people around me focused their thoughts on the true reason that brought all of us out that morning. Whether your reason to be there was for yourself or another, everyone stood together in grief and pain and it was in that moment that the birds started to sing.
It was like nothing I had experienced before, although I have never been in the forest that early in the morning. Maybe the birds sing that loudly every morning, but it truly felt like they were filling our silence with the only way they knew how. After a few minutes of the chirping, the trees started to thin out and light started to pour in and the next thing we were out of the forest and into the town. At this point of the journey, the silence broke and it was quickly replaced with laughter and chit chat between the walkers.
This was the first time that I had attended the Darkness into Light event and I am so glad that I decided to join this year and I hope to continue to be a supporter in the future. The words that kept being read out by the organisers focused on working together for the prevention of self-harm and suicide but more importantly to break the stigma of mental health. Without this stigma, conversations would develop and these vulnerable people may have the courage to talk to others and get the help that they need before it is too late for them.