By Lorcan O’Donnell
‘Light for Life’ is Out in UL’s main event for this year’s SoUL Week. It is planned to be a spectacle not only to highlighting the importance of mental health, but also in remembering those that we know who have died from suicide. Students and staff will have the opportunity to place a candle on a small paper boat, along with the name of someone they know who has taken their own life.
Originally it was envisioned that the event would focus on those in the LGBTQ community who have suffered with mental health issues and died by suicide, given the frightening statistics associated with the queer community.
According to research carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, gay people in this country are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. As well as this there are some studies that say that nearly half of transgender youth have thought about suicide with one in four attempting it. The 2009 Supporting LGBT Lives study found that 27% of LGBTQ people had self-harmed and that 20% had missed school because they were threatened or felt unsafe.
What people sometimes forget is that queer people don’t just ‘Come Out’ once and suddenly they never have to worry about it again. Members of the LGBTQ community come out every single day in different situations that they find themselves in. This can not only be extremely tiring and frustrating, it can also be very taxing on their mental health and mental resilience to constantly go through that stress and anxiety in worrying about other peoples’ reactions, especially if they’ve had negative experiences in the past.
However it was decided that this event would extend the invitation to anyone who wants to remember someone who has been a victim of or succumbed to mental illness. We can all relate to how far-reaching the effects of poor mental health can be and it is vitally important that we acknowledge this. Gone are the days that we would bury our head in the sand when it comes to anything to do with the words depression and anxiety.
With the help of high-profile national celebrities such as Bressie and Conor Cusack, the cloud of stigma that has been cast around the subject of mental health is being swept away by open discussion and events such as ‘Light for Life’.
Out in UL secretary, Seán Lynch said: “To be able to bring all societies together, under the banner of SoUL Fest, and lighting candles to remember those who we have lost to suicide, as well as think about the hardships we’re faced with today, is a huge opportunity.
“Lighting candles might seem like the smallest thing in the world to be doing at that point, but taking a moment to remember those we’ve lost and think about our own struggles can be a very powerful thing. There aren’t many people in Ireland who haven’t been touched by suicide, so I think it could be an amazing event for SoUL Week.”
“We will also be fundraising for Pieta House at the Lights for Life event”, said Out in UL’s PRO, Ilyana Keohane. “As well as remembering those who have passed away at our event, we’ll be raising money for Pieta House in order to hopefully prevent the unnecessary deaths of those who are at risk of suicide.”
The event will take place on the Wednesday of SoUL Week (Week 7).