Darkness into Light

This morning’s walk from ‘Darkness into Light’ showed London’s Irish community at it’s best.  Hundreds turned out, braving the heavy rain to support Pieta House, a charity dedicated to preventing suicide and self harm.  In the process we sent a strong message to anyone in pain - “You do not walk alone”.  
 
Having survived a suicide attempt myself, this is a deeply personal issue and I am committed to working with others to make a difference.  Part of that process involves creating the space for discussion.  We need to take mental health seriously long before a member of our community becomes suicidal.  This means tackling the stigma, in our homes, workplaces, sports clubs and bars - that’s what London’s Irish community have done today.  
 
I want to challenge the ideas we hold about ‘who’ needs support with their mental health:  Take a moment and notice the picture that comes to your mind:  Is it a quieter person, someone shy, maybe they’re clutching their head in despair?  The reality is that it can just as easily be our friend or colleague who lights up the room, the life and soul of the party, the star footballer who privately sits alone in darkness.  
 
This morning’s walk was organised by Tara Cronin of the Kerry Association with Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy and supported by the Crown Moran Hotel.  Included were many construction workers, GAA sports teams and community leaders - people who are the towers of strength we rely on, the glue that holds us together.  These are the people who will take the messages about mental health away from today’s walk and out into the world.  In order to reach people early, it’s vital to hear the strong leaders amongst us acknowledging that sometimes we have dark days and other times we need help to carry on.  This is about bringing our experiences of solidarity out of the workplace and onto the streets.
 
We have a very different attitude to physical health:  No-one would suggest a person should “get over” a broken leg or “pull themselves together” without professional help.  It’s time we took the same attitude towards mental health; for ourselves and those around us, because this is a challenge we face together.  I am here today because of the support of the Irish community; my family, friends, colleagues, fellow trade unionists, GAA team mates and hospital nurses.  Today I have felt very proud to give back and join my community walking from darkness into light.

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