Let’s Talk

Mar 01, 2018
International mental health awareness walk to debut in Al Ain

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 Dhabi.

“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 platform.

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 Kelly.

“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 Facebook page.
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