May 2, By Jason Cohen
The stigmas of depression and addiction are rarely spoken about in this country, even though one in five U.S. adults struggle with mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S and more than 44,000 people commit suicide each year.
On May 6, Pieta House New York, a Long Island City based non-profit, is hosting its third annual Darkness into Light 5K walk/run at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The goal of the fundraiser is to raise awareness and money for suicide-prevention services. Registration is open at Pieta House New York. The walk, which begins at 4 a.m., will also take place in the Bronx, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego and Austin, Texas.
“We are calling upon people around the world to join us in our crusade to save lives,” psychologist and Irish Senator Joan Freeman, who opened Pieta House in 2006 in Dublin, Ireland said in a statement.
Freeman named the organization after Pietà (The Pity), Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of Mary holding the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. Since its founding, the charity has provided therapeutic services to more than 25,000 Irish men, women and children who have threatened self-harm or suicide.
Freeman worked with Irish organizations in America to found Pieta’s first U.S. operation, which opened in September 2015 at the New York Irish Center in Queens. Of the 100 people who have received therapy in the last six months, half are Irish immigrants and the rest represent New York’s diverse population.
Beth Flaherty, manager of the Pieta House, said the organization helps people through some of the toughest times in their lives. She explained that everything is confidential and there are two licensed social workers that provide counseling.
“Suicide and self-harm is scary for people,” Flaherty remarked. “I think we all have a story that can connect to it in some way. It’s (the walk) is symbolic of the work that we’re doing at Pieta House. We’re coming together at the darkest hour and we’re crossing the finish line as the sun is rising. We’re carrying people through their darkest hours.”
The walk features family members and friends of those who committed suicide and people who attempted it as well. Nationwide about 2,000 people are expected to attend and an estimated 500 in Queens.
“It’s something that can touch any person, family or any group of friends,” Flaherty said.