International mental health awareness walk to debut in Al Ain
Mar 01, 2018
By 2020, the World Health Organisation
forecasts that depression will be the
leading cause of disability worldwide. Yet,
mental health is a topic which is rarely
spoken of openly.
More and more events committed to
raising awareness on the topic are
popping up over the world though,
among which lies Darkness into Light
(DIL), an endeavour which aims to unite
communities to raise awareness for
mental health. It does so by hosting an
early morning 5km walk which starts off in
the dark and ends at daybreak.
“The symbolism of commencing in
darkness and walking into the light is an
impactful moment for the community,
delivering a potent message of hope to
all. It highlights the struggles of those
suffering from a mental illness in darkness
and celebrates hope for the future,
surrounded by a supportive community
walking into the light,” said Maria Kelly,
Chairperson of Darkness into Light Abu
“This event was founded by psychologist
Joan Freeman to support an organisation
called Pieta House in Ireland who offer
services free of charge to those suffering
from a mental illness,” she added.
The first DIL walk took place in 2009 as a
single event in Phoenix Park, Dublin and
hosted approximately 200 people. As the
event movement gained traction, more and
more people started signing up leading this
phenomenon to take on an international
2017 then saw the event debut in the
UAE in Abu Dhabi and Dubai thanks to a
partnership between Pieta House and the
Al Jalila Foundation and this year will be
seeing the event premier in Al Ain as well,
with it also taking place in Ras Al Khaimah.
The event takes place on the same date
every year and will be taking place on 12
May this time.
“The event begins at the darkest point
of the night to symbolise those who are
suffering in darkness. The initial gathering
inspires a sombre setting, for people
to remember loved ones that they may
have lost as a result of a mental illness
or to remember those who are currently
suffering from a mental illness,” said Kelly.
“Once the crowd has gathered at the
starting point, there will be speakers
for just a few minutes, to reiterate the
message that is being sent worldwide
by this event - that we are a strong community and here to support each
other no matter what the challenge.
our walkers to carry with them on their
journey to symbolise the hope for better
times ahead and the hope we have for
those suffering,” she added.
“I believe we are often most scared of
what we don’t know enough about. It is
the unknown that causes this great fear.
By ignoring the downsides of mental
health, we are actually exacerbating
the problem. Mental health is actually a
fascinating area and one which highlights
that we are all built differently,” said
“Unfortunately, there is a wall of stigma
and misunderstanding surrounding it
worldwide. We hope that by opening up
the conversation, we can chip away at
this wall and make life a little easier for
those who are affected by mental illness.
And since starting this initiative in the
UAE, we have encountered so many
wonderful people working hard in this
area,” she said.
For anyone looking for more information
or to volunteer, find the committee’s