Pieta House chief recognised for ‘Darkness Into Light’ campaign

Brian Higgins has been awarded the title Marketer of the Year

Darkness Into Light: Pieta House chief executive Brian Higgins, the recipient of the Marketer of the Year award for 2017. Photograph: Aidan Oliver

The chief executive of suicide and self-harm prevention charity Pieta House has been recognised by the marketing industry for a "brilliantly imagined" fundraising and awareness campaign.

Brian Higgins was awarded the title Marketer of the Year at an event in Dublin today hosted by trade publication marketing.ie and sponsored by recruitment company Alternatives Group.

The judges of the annual award described Pieta House’s “Darkness Into Light” campaigns as “one of the most compelling pieces of work that we have seen recently”.

The scale of achievement was “even greater when you consider the traumatic and emotive subject at the core of their work”, said the judges, noting that success of the fundraising programme came at a time of public scepticism due to corporate governance issues elsewhere in the charitable sector.


"A brilliantly imagined national fundraising property and insightful marketing with a masterful tone of empathy, compassion and education have helped to shine a spotlight on suicide, suicidal distress and self-harm in a way that was unimaginable even a decade ago," said Alternatives Group managing director Charley Stoney.

Pieta House is a charity that provides a professional, face-to-face, free of charge therapeutic service for people in suicidal distress or those who engage in self-harm.

It has 240 psychotherapists in its 15 therapy centres across the country, supporting 5,500 people, while it has responded to a further 11,500 calls to its national suicide helpline, 1800 247 247.

Participation growth

When Mr Higgins became chief executive in 2015, he decided to restructure its “Darkness Into Light” event, a sponsored walk/run, into a “movement” and turn the issue of suicide into an “open conversation”.

An advertising campaign in partnership with Electric Ireland asked people to “wake up to the issue of suicide”, while a public relations and social media campaign told the stories of people whose lives have been devastated by suicide and who have struggled with their mental health.

Participation in “Darkness Into Light” increased 150 per cent to 180,000 people, while the event has grown from 70 venues in two countries to 145 venues in 10 countries. Fundraising also increased 150 per cent.

“Awards always matter because they are another opportunity to increase awareness of your work and to promote your message,” said Mr Higgins, adding that the work done by Pieta House was a collective effort by all of his colleagues, their clients and the charity’s supporters.

“There’s much work still to be done but by keeping open the lines of conversation and discussion, collectively we can look to a future where the scourge of suicide affects less and less people and families.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics