The participants walked along a 5 km route through the park which had been lit up by candles. The last kilometre was marched in silence. Pairs of shoes of all different colours and sizes were placed along the path to encourage participants to reflect on the purpose of the march.
“There were strong emotions, because the people marching thought of friends and family members they had lost or who are going through mental difficulties,” commented Sarah Ironside, president of the committee Darkness into Light Belgium. “In Brussels, seeing the sun rise behind the “arc de triomph” was inspiring. We formed a community and were really together.”
Ironside believes that it would be helpful to be able to speak more openly about mental health problems. “There is still a taboo surrounding mental health that must be broken. We have to dare to speak of our mental health,” she explained. “We mustn’t be afraid. There is stigmatisation. For example at work, we can say that we have a headache, or a stomach ache, but we don’t know how to say that we’ve lost our courage or spirit, or that we are going through a hard day.”
This is the second edition of ‘Darkness into Light’ in Belgium. “Since its inception in 2009 in Ireland, the march has grown from 400 to 200,000 participants worldwide, said Thomas Landaburu, director of the Suicide Prevention Centre.
The march is organised by Pieta House, an Irish association for suicide prevention. The association works with partners in all participating countries of the march. In Belgium, this year’s march raised 60,000 euros thanks to the registration fees. The money will be distributed both to the Irish association and to two participating Belgian associations.