Darkness into Light raises Dh200,000 for UAE mental health services

Proceeds will pay for treatment for depression and anxiety, seldom covered by medical insurance, and a monthly suicide support group

Mental health services in the UAE are to be boosted by a Dh200,000 donation thanks to the success of a dawn walk held across the country.

The Darkness into Light project set a 5km challenge in parks, with walkers setting off at 3.45am on Saturday, May 11.

More than 2,500 people took up the challenge, with Dh30 entry fees contributing to a fund supporting mental health initiatives.

The funds will be spent on treatment services - which are seldom covered by private medical insurance - and to fund monthly meetings supporting those affected by the suicide of family and friends.

"We are overwhelmed by the incredible support we received over the weekend and cannot thank our friends enough,” said Maria Kelly, chairperson for Darkness Into Light UAE.

“Even though the walk fell during Ramadan this year, many fasting members of the community joined us in punishing heat and humidity.”

Walks were held in four venues across the emirates.

The volunteer-led campaign has become an annual global event, with more than 250,000 people taking part in 200 worldwide walks in 2019.

Established by Irish mental health charity Pieta House, the project is partnered in the UAE with Al Jalila Foundation.

Cash raised here will support monthly tea and talk sessions, offering an outlet for anyone in need of mental health support from like-minded people.

The fund also contributes to direct clinical care for those most in need.

“As we know from the abundance of research, people who feel lonely or isolated are at higher risk of developing depression,” said Laura Brennan, the initiative’s director of therapeutic provision.

“People have a misconception, that you have to be depressed, suicidal or going through ‘big’ trauma to be considered deserving of help.

“This is untrue. Everybody deserves to be helped irrespective of the degree of suffering they are dealing with.”