A SEA of yellow t-shirts and thousands of flickering candles shined out in the darkness as thousands of people in the city walked at dawn in memory of loved ones and friends who have died by suicide.
There were emotional scenes in particular as people signed a Banner of Hope and wrote personal messages in memory of those who have died, as some 8,500 congregated for the Darkness into Light walk in Limerick city.
Run by the suicide and self-harm charity Pieta House, this was the fourth annual walk in Limerick city and the first time it had been held in Newcastle West, where numbers reached 3,000.
Across Limerick, over 11,000 people took part in the symbolic walk, and to raise awareness of depression and mental health.
It is estimated that some €200,000 will have been raised in Limerick alone for Pieta House’s services locally.
“It was a phenomenal event and quite unbelievable to see that many people walking in darkness in the city.
“There was a collective sense of grief, but there was also a collective sense of hope. Many people said they were very touched when they walked over Sarsfield Bridge and could see the sea of yellow on the opposite side, on the Shannon bridge. It was very poignant for a lot of people as they walked around the river,” said Kieran O’Brien, fundraising and volunteer co-ordinator with Pieta House in Munster and Connaught.
Among those walking was local election candidate Tina O’Gorman, while local rapper Jay Red carried a sign saying ‘Let’s talk’ to encourage more people to speak out.
Beginning at 4.15am on Saturday morning, an estimated 80,000 people turned out for dawn walks at 37 locations across the country and two venues overseas. In fact, three members of the organising committee in Sydney, where the walk was also held for the first time this year, are from Limerick: Deirdre McElliot, Fiona O’Shea and Des Ryan.
It was also the first time the walk has been held in London, and organisations in New York and Boston have already expressed interest in hosting Darkness into Light next year.
“I can’t believe the huge numbers that turned out to support our cause,” said Joan Freeman, founder and CEO of Pieta House.
“It’s a testament to how far we’ve come as a society – suicide is no longer something we fearfully brush under the carpet. Let the thousands of people gathered in towns and cities all over this country send a strong message to our government: the people of Ireland are serious about tackling suicide and we need action now.”
Nearly 4,000 people sought help from Pieta House last year.