Thousands of people across Donegal recently took part in the powerful movement that is Darkness Into Light.

But two Donegal men are taking the quest to increase awareness of mental health supports and to raise money for these services to a whole other level.

Over seven days in June, Joe Coyle and Thomas Given will undertake the Circuit of Donegal, a week-long challenge that includes hill-walking, hiking, cycling and kayaking. Money raised will go to Pieta House and youth mental health service Jigsaw.

Mr Coyle spoke to the Donegal Post about what motivated him to take on this gruelling challenge.

“For me, making a positive contribution to the world is really important and this is my way of doing it,” he said. “Two years ago we did Go4Pieta over three days. We raised €56,000 which helped to get Pieta House up and running. With over 300 people through the doors of Pieta House Donegal already, we need to keep raising money so it can help as many people as possible.”

Pieta House is a national service which provides support for those at risk of suicide or self-harm.

The second charity Jigsaw really struck a chord with Mr Coyle when it came to his attention.

“I had an experience a couple of months ago where someone I knew told me about a family member who was at school and had a meltdown,” he said.  “Jigsaw made a huge difference to this child’s life.”

Mr Coyle then went to see Jigsaw for himself.

“I was blown away by their entire ethos,” he said. “The whole building is designed by kids for kids. They are funded by the HSE but every penny we raise for them will go to getting additional therapists. There is a waiting list at the moment and that is why they need more therapists, so kids all across Donegal will benefit from what we do.

“The two charities go hand in hand. If early intervention works then it would reduce the pressure on Pieta House.”

In regard to the challenge itself, the two men are preparing as best they can but Mr Coyle has no illusions about the extent of what is involved.

“I am nervous about it,” he said. “You need to be physically strong and mentally strong too. We still have a lot of training and work to do. Kayaking in particular is new to me so that will be a challenge. Then you are depending on things like the weather.”

The pair will be gone for six nights and they are hoping that people along the way will help them.

“We are reaching out, hoping that people will be able to put us up to save money,” said Mr Coyle.

And indeed there are other ways that people can get involved and contribute to the success of the Circuit of Donegal. A bucket collection will take place across the county on June 16 and 17.

“Every crossroads, village and town is an opportunity to collect on these two days,” said Mr Coyle. “We need people to do the collections and we also need people to organise them.”

As well as raising money for Pieta House and Jigsaw, the pair hope that this undertaking will start conversations about mental health.

“When somebody is in a difficult place they mightn’t even think of asking for help,” said Mr Coyle. “We all need to know that it is ok to reach out. There are a lot of organisations that are only too happy to talk to people who are in this position.”

He believes that rather than simply telling people they should talk about mental health, a better approach is to ask: “How will it benefit you to ask for help?”

Mr Coyle said: “Mental health is one of the few illnesses that can be cured by talking. The more people that talk about it the better.”

More information can be found on the Circuit of Donegal Facebook page while donations can be made through the fundraising page Information on Jigsaw Donegal can be found by clicking here and on Pieta House by clicking here

The Seven-Day Circuit of Donegal

Day One:

90Km cycle from Mountcharles to Muff via Donegal Town, Ballybofey. Stranorlar, Convoy, Raphoe, St Johnston, Carrigans, Killea, the Strand Road and on to Muff

Day Two:

Firstly, a 16Km walk from Muff to Buncrana over the shoulder of Scalp Mountain (height 320m) followed by the ferry to Rathmullen and a further 13Km walk with a 200m climb across to Milford

Day Three:

Kayak from the old Milford Bakery to Meevagh Boatyard on the Rosguill Peninsula

Day Four:

Walk seven beaches from Rosguill to Magheraroarty, - Murder Hole Beach followed by Trabeg, Tramore, Marble Hill, Killyhowey, Falcarragh Beach and Magheraroarty Beach

Day Five:

Walk seven islands, namely Inishbofin, Tory, Inishmean, Gola, Owey, Aranmore and Inishfree (weather dependent)

Day Six:

40Km walk from Maghery Dungloe to Maghery Ardara via Gweebarra, Maas, Tully and Ardara

Day Seven:

Cycle from Maghery Ardara back to Mountcharles via The Nick, Killybegs and Dunkineely.

Circuit of Donegal map



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