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Pieta House prepares for flagship suicide fundraiser



Around one million people a year worldwide take their own lives by suicide – more than those who die by homicide, war and road traffic accidents…combined.

Around 500 per year take their own life in Ireland; 400 of them male. A study of young Irish men aged from 18 to 34 found that 78% knew someone who had died by suicide, 42% knew more than one person, and 17% had a close friend who completed suicide.

This year Pieta House marks ten years in existence having opened its doors at a time when suicide was still a taboo subject.

This week the organisation is preparing for Darkness Into Light, an event that is not just the charity’s flagship fundraiser but also a sign of how much the issue is now in the public conscience.

“Nobody would even mention the word then and yet when news got out that we had opened it seemed that we had opened a flood gate of sorrow fear and unspoken grief,” remembers Pieta founder, psychologist Joan Freeman.

Ten years on, the grass roots organisation has helped over 20,000 people in suicidal distress or engaging in self harm. In 2015 Pieta House delivered 49,900 hours of therapy to 5,466 people presenting with suicidal ideation and self-harm.

Today Pieta House has nine centres with a further three planned to open in the next two years – and it depends on fundraising events for a massive 85% of its income.

The Darkness into Light charity walk will place at 4.15am on Saturday, May 7, in 89 venues both at home and abroad – eleven of them in Galway city and county.

The international events – in London, New York, Canada, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere – will see 50% of proceeds going to Pieta House and the other half going to a local like-minded charity in the respective area.

A real effort has been made to include the rurally isolated, especially islanders with events running on the three Aran Islands, Inishbofin, Arranmore and Tory Island.

Starting while it’s dark and finishing just as dawn is breaking, this beautiful symbolic event gives hope to people affected by suicide and self-harm.

The charity sees social isolation as a major risk factor; those living in rural areas – and particularly in farming communities – are seen to be at greater risk and have higher suicide rates.

There is no one singular cause, but Mental Health Ireland says that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

For the 500 people lost to suicide every year in Ireland a further 9,500 end up in A&E departments as a result of failed suicide attempts and intentional self-harm injuries.

Donna Burke of Pieta House West explains how the removal of barriers is an essential part of Pieta’s success; all services are free and medical referrals are not required.

“The biggest thing is that it’s self-referral; a person that is feeling maybe that they need help or support can just pick up the phone themselves – they don’t need to go through a doctor, they don’t need to go through a medical service of any kind,” she says

Pride can be a major obstacle preventing people from seeking the help they need. This is particularly true with older generations and people living in small town and rural settings.

“The likes of my dad – I know there’s no way he would go to his doctor and open up about not feeling okay,” she says.

But by removing these barriers, privacy has not been compromised and there’s no waiting time. “Anyone can be seen at any time,” says Donna.

Rural isolation has been recognised as another serious cause for concern. The high rate of suicide among men in rural areas was the driving force behind the ‘Mind Our Farm Families’ campaign – a joint initiative between the IFA and Pieta House.

Farmers face many challenges – financial pressures, red tape, long working hours, and isolation are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Unforeseen changes in farming work conditions such as continual bad weather, failing a herd test, bad harvest, isolation, being over worked, financial difficulties, impending retirement, or ill health are all things that might cause a farmer distress or bring on suicidal feelings,” say the Mind Our Farm Families campaigners.

Tom McEvoy of Pieta House West says the trained vets became ‘our eyes and ears on the ground’ and since then they have seen a big increase in numbers attending therapy.

Tom, who lost his own brother to suicide, is keen to encourage men to talk and to facilitate women to empower themselves to lookout for the signs.

That helps those who turn to Pieta House to make the journey from darkness into light – next weekend, tens of thousands around the world will make that journey for real, and by doing so they’ll shine even more light on what was once a stigma in the darkest of shadows.

There are Darkness into Light walks in Galway city, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Ballygar, Clifden, Kinvara, Inismeáin, Inis Oirr, Inis Mór, Inishbofin and An Cheathrú Rua. For further information go to

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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