As with every year, First Fortnight is proud to have some of our volunteers taking part in the action this Saturday. We caught up with a selection of them to find out what makes Darkness Into Light so special.
I’m Edel Doran- if you email info, chances are I’m the one typing back the reply to you. I’m the administrator and programme co-ordinator for First Fortnight. I first started with First Fortnight back in September 2014 and it’s been amazing to be involved in the hub of the organisation and see it grow, and be constantly amazed by how generous and supportive people are towards the charity and what we are trying to achieve.
Now I am fond of my sleep so if I’m getting up in the wee hours of the morning, 3/4am, it needs to be something exciting like a trip to the airport to an exotic destination. However the list for reasons why I get up early will now include a trip around Phoenix Park with a whole bunch of people watching the sunrise, because it’s equally exciting and important to be a part of that, to be a part of a demonstration and movement that shows how you value your own mental health and that of others, to show solidarity and support, and simply because I can, because I’m lucky enough to be able to participate while unfortunately others cannot.
Often the idea of fighting the stigma of mental health and creating conversations around mental health and changing attitudes can simply be overwhelming at times, you feel like a spark in the dark trying to achieve the impossible. However Darkness Into Light, thousands of these sparks are coming together and creating a massive flame of light and helping to create hope and motivation for a lot of people. So yeah while I’m going to need to set multiple alarms for Sat 12th, I can’t wait to walk with the First Fortnight family and friends and witness that Darkness into Light Experience.
Plus… there might be deer. The excitement grows!
I’m Una, and I’ve been involved in First Fortnight for years at this stage! First as an audience member, then as a festival volunteer in 2012, before becoming involved with fundraising, joining the Board of Directors in 2013 and spending a few years as festival volunteer coordinator – so a bit of a Jack of all Trades within First Fortnight!
2018 will be my 3rd Darkness into Light walk in aid of Pieta House. I have found the previous walks to be incredible experiences. There’s something tangible in the air as people, both literally and metaphorically, move towards a common goal. We have all been impacted in some way by suicide although the degree of separation may vary from person to person within the crowd. But there’s a power in moving towards the dawn with a sea of other people, that makes me hopeful that as a society we may be moving towards a change when it comes to mental health.
The person that pops into my head on Darkness into Light day is a girl from school who died by suicide. We weren’t close friends but sat together for some subjects and then, as happens, lost touch after school. So this year, again, I’ll be remembering Emma with a smile as we walk from darkness into light next Saturday morning for Pieta House.
On 1st January 2015 I found myself at a new year event with a difference, were people spoke incredibly openly about mental health, shared personal struggles, stories of loss, crisis and strength and stories of survival. There was a genuine sense of connection in the room and feeling that each of us could help one another. I remember the closing speaker talking about, ‘walking each other home’, it stayed with me. The event was part of First Fortnight Festival (never heard of it!), and I went to 3 more events that month, and at each one the sense of possibility that positive change could happen grew. The following year I volunteered with them and was asked if I would like to help on the resource group. Yes! Since then I was lucky enough to have been invited to join the board of the charity, and I work with the communications team.
On 12th May I’ll join thousands of others to continue advocating for something that has become incredibly important to me; challenging stigma and prejudice around mental health; to support a society where important conversations can take place; making it easier for people to get the help they need and deserve.
Also in my mind as I walk will be a friend who we lost 9 years ago next month. How I wish I had been capable of speaking with him then, and ask a simple question. Are you ok? … and really listen. And how he would have laughed his ass off at me getting up for 4am to go for a walk.
My name is Grayce Leonard and this year is my third year working with First Fortnight. I started off as a volunteer and now this is my second year working with the communications team. I work in journalism and photography so I also use these skills while working with First Fortnight, editing videos, interviewing people, taking photos and general communications work together with the lovely team that we have – shout out to all of them for being so great! I can honestly say that the work I do with First Fortnight more rewarding than anything else.
Darkness Into Light is something that I have wanted to do for many years now but due to various excuses, I never took action to go out there and do it. One thing – out of many things that I have learned from working with First Fortnight is the incredible impact that a large, or small number of people can have by simply just coming together in support of mental health and in creating a large-scale positive change on de-stigmatizing the issue.
The stigma that exists around mental health in Ireland and beyond still remains at large, but I believe that the act of large groups of people coming together in solidarity has the power to bring about change on any topic. For mental health this power is particularly significant, creating a space where people feel comfortable in speaking openly about mental health is vital for progression on the issue – it may initially be discomforting for people to get to that stage of opening up and confiding but beyond that, things become easier and sometimes the comfort in knowing someone understands or is there for you if you need them can be enough to make you feel better.
The more people that show their support for mental health issues the closer we are getting to detaching the stigma around the issue and with every step that each person takes in Ireland and around the world during Darkness Into Light, a small piece of the wall of the stigma attached to mental health is being chiseled away.
Also to mention Pieta House and the incredible work they do in preventing suicide and self-harm, every cent that is being raised during Darkness Into Light is going a very long way to improve lives and ultimately save them.
Darkness Into Light takes place across the country this Saturday. Find out more here.