Friday, 28 April 2023
Take a minute and change a life, will be the vital message at the Darkness into Light Costa del Sol walk which aims to bring awareness to suicide.
The annual walk, entering its eighth year, was founded as an opportunity to acknowledge the enormous toll exacted by suicide and to encourage people to talk, listen, share and assist anyone struggling to find help.
The Darkness into Light walk takes place in 15 countries and typically starts at dawn so participants can stride out of the dark of night and into the light of day.
Founder of the Costa del Sol walk Michael O'Hallaran was a participant every year in the Dublin event but in 2016 he missed out.
The Irishman was instead at his property in Estepona, and so he decided to start the walk on the Costa with 17 friends at the time.
There are now three official walks along the Costa del Sol and one in Gibraltar, with hundreds taking part each year and all the money raised going towards the charity partner, Afesol Salud Mental.
"Suicide was always swept under the carpet and that needed to change," O'Hallaran said.
"Thirty years ago, if someone died by suicide and another person asked, you would lie or it wouldn't be spoken about at all.
"Today, we have come a long way but we need to continue to ensure suicide is spoken about."
Afesol Salud Mental, based in Benalmádena and with day centres along the Costa del Sol, provides support to family and friends of people struggling with their mental health, including suicide prevention.
Last year, Estepona town hall, through the activities of Darkness into Light Costa del Sol, was able to allocate a 1,000-square-metre building to Afesol to use as a day support centre in Estepona. Activities at the centre are financed by the Andalusian health service.
Over the past few years, Darkness into Light Costa del Sol has donated 50,000 euros to Afesol.
This year's proceeds will go towards furnishing the Estepona day centre, which is planned to act as a walk-in centre with a qualified psychologist onsite. The site will officially open in June.
The three walks on the Costa del Sol will be on 6 May starting at 6am in Benalmádena (Plaza del Remo); La Cala de Mijas (Buddy Mulligans Pub); and Estepona (Blue Dolphin).
People in Gibraltar can also take part with the Rock organising its own walk. Money raised from that event will go towards Gibraltar helpline and counselling service, Gibsams.
Children at Loreto Convent even painted pebbles with messages of hope ahead of the walk and as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. These pebbles will then be distributed around Gibraltar the day before the walk, on Saturday 6 May.
Participants in the Gibraltar walk should meet in Casemates Square at 5.30am, where everyone will then be split into two groups to embark on one of two routes.
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