‘It is so important that mental health is talked about’
Gertie and Johnny holding a picture of their son Fergal who sadly passed away in 2008

‘It is so important that mental health is talked about’

AS DARKNESS into Light 2022 approaches on May 7, Johnny Fox, a Tallaght man who was instrumental in starting the fundraiser after his son Fergal died by suicide, speaks about the importance of breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and reminds people of the supports that are available.

Since it began in 2009, Darkness Into Light has become a worldwide event, raising money for Pieta and spreading awareness for suicide prevention and mental health.

Johnny Fox, who lives in Cushlawn with his wife Gertie, helped to develop the 5km event, which first took place in the Phoenix Park after losing their 24-year-old son, Fergal, to suicide in 2008.

“When we lost our son, we were advised to go down to a lady called Joan Freeman who was the CEO of Pieta House,” Johnny told The Echo.

“We were both very low at the time as you can imagine and my wife wasn’t well either at that time because she had got her hip done, so all in all we were in a dark place at the time.

“Joan told us that they were trying to get a committee going and trying to organise a run or something to raise funds for Pieta House and it went from there. The first year we had 439 people and since then it has mushroomed into what it is now, it’s all over the world.”

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Darkness into Light has not been held as a group event for the past two years, but is finally back in-person this year, with events taking place across Ireland and the World.

People are still encouraged to participate how they like, whether this be joining an event on the morning or by sharing a sunrise moment with friends, family or colleagues.

Johnny Fox appears on the TV ad promoting Darkness Into Light

In addition to raising vital funds, Darkness into Light opens an important and necessary conversation surrounding mental health, invites people to share their feelings and experiences and to help others see the light and the hope that is out there.

Johnny also appears on this year’s Electric Ireland ad for Darkness into Light, speaking about how the event brings people together to walk in hope, and how he will be there cheering everyone on at the finish line in Phoenix Park to show them how important they are.

A touching moment in the ad is when Johnny’s son Fergal’s Godfather, Jim Reardon, is seen hugging Johnny as he crosses the finish line. He had previously trained with Tallaght Athletics Club before moving to America, having come home to participate in the Darkness Into Light event in the Phoenix Park.

“It is so important that mental health is talked about,” said Johnny. It hasn’t eased by any means from what we can see. All we can do is make awareness and try to help people get through the bad patch – that’s what it’s all about.

“Talking is the most important thing. If you feel down, when you start talking to somebody all of a sudden it seems to lift a little bit. Talk to people and also to listen to people and take it in – just let them talk. If someone is feeling down or needing help, if they seek help they will get it in abundance.

“We were in a very dark place, and without Pieta, Joan Freeman and Darkness into Light and the support from people I don’t know where we would be today. The people in Tallaght and the support they have shown us is unbelievable.”

To register for this year’s Darkness into Light, you can go to www.darknessintolight.ie

If you feel that you are struggling or wish to speak to someone, there is a wide range of supports available. A full list of support services can be found on www.hse.ie

Pieta House Freephone 1800 247 247 every day 24 hours a day or Text HELP to 51444.

AWARE Freephone support line 1800 80 48 48 10am to 10pm every day.

Visit Mental Health Ireland or phone the information line 01 284 1166 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Samaritans – Call 116 123 to speak to a Samaritan or visit Samaratians.

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