"It gives people the opportunity to feel that solidarity": Louise Cooney on the power of Darkness Into Light
This year's socially distanced Darkness into Light will take place on Saturday, 8 May.
When Pieta House approached Louise Cooney and asked her to be an ambassador for Darkness into Light, she accepted almost instantly.
"This is so close to my heart, especially after the year I had," the lifestyle blogger says. "I just felt with the platform I have, it's so important to try to help."
It goes without saying that the past year has taken a toll on many people's mental health, and Pieta House has felt the brunt of the pandemic within its operations. For instance, calls to the mental health organisation increased by 25%.
In line with safety measures, the organisation had to adapt in order to continue to provide vital mental health support. Their pivot to virtual counselling proved a challenging but necessary adaption over the last year.
Additionally, Covid-19 restrictions saw the majority of Pieta House's fundraising events cancelled. As the organisation relies on donations for 80% of its funding, this took a considerable toll.
"No matter what's going on, the sun does rise."
Given the challenging year Pieta House has seen, it's no wonder Louise stresses the importance of this year's Darkness Into Light campaign. Beyond the essential funds the event raises, the annual walk is a powerful reminder that we are not alone, especially when it comes to mental health.
"It gives people the opportunity to feel that solidarity with others," Louise explains. "It's nice to take that time to appreciate that other people are there. Other people do care and there are services that are free and can help.
"It can be a really emotional time for people, but just try and find the light in it. That's kind of what the walk is about, to see the light coming through the darkness. It's a reminder that no matter what's going on, the sun does rise."
While the last year has been difficult for many, Louise appreciates that the conversations surrounding mental health are shifting.
"It's definitely getting better," Louise notes. "Questions like 'Are you OK?' and 'How is your mental health doing?' have become very normal to ask."
"That positive, grateful head-space really helps me,"
Indeed, mental health doesn't just refer to anxiety and depression, but also the little steps we can take to safe-guard our well-being every day. For Cooney, having a set routine has been particularly beneficial in dealing with uncertainty.
"Over the last year, I’ve really had to develop a routine that suits me, that kind of sets me up for the day and the week in a good state. And if I don’t do it for a couple of days, I feel it.
"I’ll wake up and and I’ll try and not dive straight into my phone, I’ll take some time to enjoy my morning coffee, take it a bit slower, read my book, writing, I keep a gratitude journal. That positive, grateful head-space really helps me."
This year's Darkness Into Light will take place on Saturday 8 May. As gatherings are not currently permitted under restriction guidelines, Pieta House encourage participants to wear the signature yellow t-shirt and walk, swim, run or cycle at sunrise.
For more information, and to sign up, head to darknessintolight.ie.