WIT hosts Pieta House and the High Hopes Choir to tackle suicide

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Pictured are Fr David Keating, WIT, and Brian Higgins, CEO, Pieta House

Pictured are Fr David Keating, WIT, and Brian Higgins, CEO, Pieta House

WIT staff and students filled the auditorium for a talk, Live a Better Life by Pieta House followed by a performance from the High Hopes Choir

CEO of Pieta House, Brian Higgins paid a visit to Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to deliver the talk, ‘Live a Better Life’, where he spoke to staff and students about what the charity does and how far it has come in the past 11 years.

This event for WIT staff and students was organised by the John Moore Community Award Committee (Angela Collins, Joan McDonald, Fr. Pat Fitzgerald, Marc Jones, Fr. David Keating) to mark 40 tears of the WIT John Moore Community Award.

This award's motto is "To serve and not be served", it is made annually to the person who is judged to have made the greatest contribution to the morale and ethos of the institute community in some way.

Pieta House Waterford

This event at WIT coincided with the recent development of a Pieta House centre at the quayside in Waterford city. Helping people realise that do not want to die –they just want to stop the feelings and the pain – is an important part of the work of Pieta House.

Those in attendance in the jam packed auditorium were also treated to a performance by the High Hopes Choir, who sang a set of four songs, including Coldplay’s Fix You and Snow Patrol’s Run.

Higgins spoke to a capacity attendance in the Auditorium about the history and background of Pieta House, which was established to support people in active suicidal ideation or engaging in self harm. He explained how having negative feelings and pain is not unusual in an average life. These feelings are only temporary and that in reality a great many people feel suicidal at some time in their lives.

Higgins started the discussion by giving a snippet of his own background, detailing how his Pieta House journey started, having spent 11 years working with homeless people and those suffering with addiction in the UK with an organisation called DePaul.

“In the UK, we had a project where we put stickers on each public phone box called, ‘message home’, homeless people or those living with addiction would give us the message to pass onto their family members. The rate of suicide is 35% higher in homeless people or addiction sufferers.”

Hope, self-care and acceptance

“We have had 29,000 people go through our doors since 2006 and our vision is, a world where suicide, self-harm and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care and acceptance.”

Pieta House major fund raiser, Darkness into Light began with 400 people seven years ago which expanded across four continents and 130,000 people last year.  

Speaking directly to the attending students, Higgins said, “These young people do not need to die by suicide. As young people you need to create an environment of tolerance and create an Ireland where people don’t need to die of suicide.”

High Hopes Choir

Students listened to the stories of members of the High Hopes Choir such as those who struggled with depression, loss and mental ill-health in the past but who found new meaning and purpose with music, song and fellowship. The High Hopes Choir sang a number of songs, recited poetry and the sharing of their personal stories left a deep impression on those who attended the event.

Former WIT PhD candidate Phil Brennan was on hand with the High Hopes Choir to elaborate on the origins of the choir. Brennan introduced Mousey, who spoke of his own experiences with addiction and homelessness.

“It’s hard to explain, there was no light at the end of the tunnel for me. I lived in England for 26 years. My mental health issues were there for 30 years, but I was saved by the Salvation Army and got my life back.”

Mousey has since got his own house for him and his dog, which was met with an eruption of cheers from the audience.

Also a member of the High Hopes Choir, Alice, read two poems she had written to the crowd. Her first poem, Late at Night, was a dark description of what it feels like to be alone and suffering, followed by a more uplifting poem, Thank You.

“Whenever there is darkness, there’s happiness to follow”, she said.


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