The Mountmellick Darkness into Light Committee presenting a cheque to Pieta House after the 2017 walk.
Laois needs its own Pieta House centre for suicide prevention, a Portlaoise councillor has said, and local organisers have agreed.
Pieta House gets thousands of euros raised at Laois Darkness into Light walks yearly, recently opening its eleventh centre in Athlone.
Cllr Noel Tuohy said it is too far for Laois people.
“Pieta also have a centre in Roscrea. However these centres are too far for members of our community who are suffering from depression, coping with suicidal ideation or suicide bereavement,” he said at a recent council meeting.
“Portlaoise is the largest urban centre in the Midlands and we have seen more than our fair share of the torment and tragedy of suicide,” Cllr Tuohy said.
His motion asked the council to “fully support the effort to encourage Pieta House to open a outreach centre for the growing population of Portlaoise and Laois”.
He said Laois County Council is taking a progressive role in promoting mental health, but said there is “a glaring gap” in the State’s provision of mental health supports.
“There are now three times more people dying from suicide each year in Ireland than in road accidents,” he said.
He was seconded by Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley.
“Suicide is a very sensitive, private matter, I don’t know of any family not affected by it in some manner. I would like to see the same emphasis on supports and outreach services. Most people who suffer in that way end up in A&E and are sent home,” she said.
The organisers of the Mountmellick branch of the walk are prepared to provide a centre in Laois.
John and Susan Nelson lead a dedicated committee that will hold their eighth walk this May from Mountmellick GAA club. Last year 2,000 took part and donated €33,000 towards free suicide counselling by Pieta House (see image).
Ms Nelson welcomed the call for a Laois centre.
“I think there's a demand for Pieta House in every county unfortunately due to lack of funding this just isn't possible. We as a committee are delighted that Noel has raised this matter and if he or anyone else would like to help we are always looking for volunteers,” she said.
Pieta has an outreach policy in line with their strategic plan, to be signed off in late March, Ms Nelson said.
“If Portlaoise is in the plan we will provide an outreach facility,” she said.
The annual walk will take place in over 50 venues across Ireland and the world on May 12 at 4:15am. The 5km starts in darkness, walking as dawn breaks to symbolise the journey out of depression.
Pieta House offers free professional counselling, with no need for a doctors referral, to anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or self harm.