BY 3:45am on Saturday morning University College Cork was crowded more than it ever would be at a normal time on a normal day. More than 4,000 people had gathered to take part in the annual Darkness Into Light walk, supporting Pieta House.
Everyone was there for some reason. Some were there for themselves. Some were there to support their friends who didn't want to make the walk alone. Some were there for the people that couldn't be there.
But even the reasons were serious, the atmosphere was hopeful. For some people, the short walk ahead of them was more difficult than running a marathon, but people supported each other. Whether that was friend walking alongside you, or a warm smile from a total stranger, there was a real feeling of community, that everyone was in this together.
Lord Mayor Des Cahill gave a short speech before mingling into the crowd and walking the 5 km himself. The runners took off first, heading off the main campus and onto Western Road. The pathways of the main quad were lined with lights, with a light display above them spelling out 'HOPE'. Along the way, stewards cheered on everyone taking part. The full route looped around Sunday's Well, before returning to UCC via the Lee Walkway.
For most of the walkers, darkness had turned into light by the time they crossed the bridge back to the south side of the Lee, as the sun rose on the eastern side. As the walkers made their way, rowers in kayaks and row boats arrived, with their vessels decked out in fairy lights, passing under the bridge lending their support too.
Back on the main campus, just after 5am, people relaxed and took in the atmosphere, before heading off, back to bed or to start their day, hopeful.
The walk in UCC was one of 150 that took place across the world, and one of 14 in Cork alone. More than 150,000 people were expected to take part globally, with the fundraising from the events raising a third of Pieta House's budget for the year, allowing them to provide free services to people suffering from suicidal ideation, engaging in self-harm, and helping people who have been affected by it.
Anyone who may be affected by the issues raised in today's paper and would like to talk to someone about them is encouraged to contact Pieta House or The Samaritans. Pieta House Cork is based at Highfield Lawn, Model Farm Road, Bishopstown and their phone number is 021 434 1400. The organisation’s 24/7 freephone helpline is 1800 247 247. You can also text Pieta House on 51444, though normal text message charges apply for this service. The Samaritans can be contacted on their free 24/7 helpline at 116 123, or by emailing email@example.com.