Remembering by candlelight
Rachel Breslin, the Welfare Officer in UCD writes here about the Please Talk Candlelit vigil they held in UCD last week. Candlelit vigils are taking place across Irish college campuses throughout November.
So what’s Please Talk you say? Well, it is a service based in colleges around the country that encourage young people to talk about things that are bothering them. There is also a website, pleasetalk.ie with a list of the colleges’ support services that are there for you when times are tough.
Every year we organise a candlelit vigil to remember those young people who have died by suicide. The event could be in any format we liked (as long as there were candles involved!) so it was cool to start with a blank canvass.
Pausing to think
The chair of the Please Talk committee here and I picked a central location, just outside our main library at 6 pm because it would be dark then and it’s a good time of day for pausing and thinking. We decided to go with a large Please Talk logo in candles on the ground as well as students holding their own candles to symbolise their own loss.
We drew the logo in chalk on the ground and placed candles along the lines. As soon as the first candle was lit something happened. The exuberant mood of the volunteers seemed to shift. We were all suddenly struck by the beauty and touching symbolism of this candle, blowing frailly in the wind. Everyone naturally associates candles with remembrance and I think the poignancy of the event really sunk in.
People began to notice the beautiful candles and started crowding around. It was truly remarkable to see small groups huddled around, talking about the candles, the event and their own loss. Some people even stood still in silent thought and blessed themselves before moving on. The striking candles were effective in acting as a trigger for people to talk about mental health, and that is exactly what we set out to do.
Talking is a sign of strength
At 6 pm the crowd hushed and Evan and I addressed everyone, welcoming them to the event. We read out some poignant poems and held a minute’s silence to pause and remember those whom we have lost.
It felt like in those few moments when over 600 small candles were lit on a cold, rainy November day to remember loved ones that UCD became a community. People huddled together holding candles and talked openly about friends and family members who have gone. The mood was appropriately somber but undoubtedly one of determination to support eachother through difficult times. That night students from all over UCD came together and practised what we preached; “talking is a sign of strength, not of weakness”.