Belfast Telegraph

Matthew Snoddy's mum turns despair into hope with dawn walk for son who took own life

By Victoria Leonard

A mother whose son lost his life to suicide is turning her grief into hope with an event at Ormeau Park.

Colette Snoddy's beloved boy, Matthew, from Newtownabbey, took his own life in 2015.

She is now bringing a Darkness into Light walk to Belfast in aid of two suicide prevention charities to support grieving families and fund vital counselling services.

The event on May 6 will begin with a pre-dawn walk at around 4.15am, during which participants bearing candles will head towards the rising sun in a symbol of hope.

Darkness Into Light walks are the flagship fundraising events of Pieta House, which offers free counselling to people experiencing suicidal thoughts, as well as those who have been bereaved by suicide and those engaging in self-harm.

Also benefiting from the event will be suicide prevention charity Lighthouse, which provides support services to families who have lost loved ones and to individuals in crisis.

"Matthew took his own life just 22 months ago," Colette, a nurse, explained.

"He was an only child. He was 18 on April 21 and on May 14 he took his own life.

"In the months after he died I always thought that I wanted to do something to raise awareness of suicide. This is something which happens to all creeds, classes and denominations.

"Matthew was doing his A-levels at Belfast Met. He was very popular and we thought he had settled well into the tech."

On the morning of the event, supporters will gather at Ormeau Park for a 5k walk or run towards the breaking dawn. An event will also take place in Hannahstown, on the outskirts of Belfast.

Colette said the events would give people the opportunity to meet others who have been through the same experience. "The walk is very cathartic," she added. "We will be putting a picture of Matthew on our T-shirts, and at the end there is a board where people can put their messages to loved ones and the tea light they have carried.

"People are encouraged to carry a picture of their loved one or put it on their T-shirts.

"People also get the opportunity to speak to others in the same situation after the walk if they so wish. It's about giving hope to people who are in a very dark place.

"Since the signing of the Belfast Agreement, more people have died of suicide than during all of the Troubles, and three-quarters of them are male. It's like an epidemic. There is a silence around suicide, but I want people to talk about suicide."

Colette is calling for more to be done in schools to promote positive mental health amongst young people.

"Many young males are not able to talk - it's that stereotypical thing that a man is supposed to 'man up', " she said. "Yet one in four people suffers from mental health problems.

"These walks give hope to those in crisis and those left behind. Matthew was the catalyst for me to organise the walk and his death hasn't been in vain.

"If this event saves even one life, it will be worth it. A positive legacy is going to emerge out of tragedy."

To register and for more information, visit Pieta House's website or the Darkness into Light Belfast Ormeau Park Facebook page.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, you can call Lighthouse on 028 9075 5070. It is based at 187-189 Duncairn Gardens, north Belfast, and is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm.

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