Ireland's Pieta House is opening its doors in New York for the first time.Ireland's Pieta House is opening its doors in New York for the first time.

Almost ten years ago Pieta House opened its doors in an Ireland that never spoke of nor acknowledged the topic and trauma of suicide.

While Pieta was created because of personal loss, it was also born out of the necessity of helping people who were in suicidal crisis – helping them with compassion rather than medicalizing their problem.

So in 2006 – one bright, crisp winter morning in January – Pieta house opened its doors not knowing what was going to happen, how we were going to be received and more importantly how we were going to survive. I had borrowed €130,000 from a local bank. They would only give me this loan if I gave our home as collateral. I gave it. It was a time when my four children were teenagers, we had one main income – my husband, Pat’s – yet it never dawned on me that the creation of Pieta would compromise the safety or security of my family. It never did.

Ten years on, with 9 centers across Ireland and a staff of 180 people, we have helped over 30,000 people, from children as young as six years of age to people in their 80s. We have saved lives, there is no doubt, but we have also changed the social fabric of Ireland. No longer are people afraid to say the word suicide. No longer are people afraid to seek help – no longer are we afraid.

A volunteer at the Darkness into Light walk.

A volunteer at the Darkness into Light walk.

This level of change has also been achieved to some degree because of Darkness into Light – a walk that encourages people to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to not only raise funds for Pieta House but also to acknowledge the need to discuss the tragedy of suicide.

This event has created a forum that allows us to do this. Earlier this year on another crisp morning in May, 130,000 walked across our country to do exactly that. Men, women and children walked the streets in solidarity. They were the foot soldiers of the dawn, fighting the fight against suicide.

We are a different Ireland now. We are an Ireland that is more inclusive, compassionate and loving. Although we are a country that is fractured, that fracture has allowed the light to seep in, lightening up areas that were forever in the dark. We are an Ireland to be proud of.

This is the Ireland that Pieta has grown and developed in, a country that has allowed this service to become an organization that is most loved and beloved. And now we can bring this life-saving service to the Irish wherever they are. It is only now that we can come to New York.

We are coming into a city that never sleeps, to a city where it is still a crime to attempt suicide. We are also coming into a city that offers the Irish so much: a future, an income, a different life. But it is also a city that in some ways can be ruthless. We have come across people who have survived and thrived in this wonderful country, but we have also come across cases where our young people have stumbled and needed to go home, or where people who are undocumented for decades are living in the fear of being discovered, or where, for whatever reason, people have been forced to leave a city that had become their home.

This coming autumn, Pieta House will open its doors in New York. In collaboration with the New York Irish Center in Queens, we will open a service that is free of charge, a service that is life-saving, supportive and embracing. It will be a totally confidential service that will help our own in times of trouble provided by professional and compassionate staff.

All we ask of the people who come to us in their hour of need is that they trust us.

We have worked out that it will cost Pieta around $1,000 to provide therapy from start to finish for every person who comes to us. We would be so grateful if anyone would help us raise money to run this service. Every cent that is raised in New York from donations will remain in New York, going straight to a service that can and will save lives.

In the meantime, we would like to thank sincerely those who have already donated. Your donation is going towards providing a service that could be for someone you know or love, who might need a service like Pieta House – now you know there is somewhere to go.

Pieta House founder Joan Freeman.

Pieta House founder Joan Freeman.

Joan Freeman



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