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Image / Self / Health & Wellness

‘I understand the importance of having support systems around you’: Irish singer Tolü Makay on minding her mental health 


By Sarah Finnan
26th Mar 2022

@tolumakay

‘I understand the importance of having support systems around you’: Irish singer Tolü Makay on minding her mental health 

Busy preparing for her exciting festival performance at Electric Picnic in a few months’ time, Tolü Makay has taken on another project in the meantime and was named Pieta House’s Darkness Into Light Ambassador this year. 

An event that holds a special place in people’s hearts, Darkness Into Light is about much more than just a sunrise stroll. A tradition that’s been in place for 13 years now, it first started back in 2009 when 400 people set off from Dublin’s Phoenix Park for the inaugural 5km walk. Small steps amount to big ones though and the event has grown year on year, with an estimated 200,000 participants now signing on to join the movement. 

Drawing thousands of people across Ireland together – albeit from afar – the walk provides people not only with an opportunity to connect with their local communities, but to bring hope to those who have been affected by suicide too. 

Due to take place on May 7 this year, we spoke to the event’s 2022 ambassador, Afro-Irish singer Tolü Makay, about the things that matter most and who helps to pick her up when she’s down. 

On why she got involved

“I’ve never done anything like it before, and after coming out of lockdown, more than ever, I understand the importance of having support systems around you. A lot of us, no matter where we are from, are close to or have seen the effect of someone taken by suicide. I want to help in whatever capacity I can to spread the word about Darkness Into Light – so others know that there is support and help out there.” 

On what she does to mind her own mental health

“I make sure to schedule in me time – which is much easier said than done! I make sure to prioritise time for friends and fun activities that get me outside of my own head too… outside of work mode and outside of my house. Planning little getaways and trips as often as I can also helps. It could even be something as simple as going out to the Botanic Gardens in Dublin or going to the cinema.”

On who she turns to for advice 

“My friends.”

On someone who is doing it right in the industry  

“Everyone is trying to do the best they can, and no matter how good something looks on the outside you never know what’s truly happening. It’s a tricky question because I truly don’t know if there is a ‘right way’ to do things, especially in this industry.”

On confidence 

“Anything in relation to confidence takes time. See yourself as someone you’re getting to know. I personally had to do a lot of digging, soul searching to feel comfortable within myself. This is where I found confidence. Comfort in myself first. Truthfully, I don’t feel confident all the time which is also fine. But knowing yourself enough helps. It helps build boundaries and shows you how to assert yourself.”

On how she got through lockdown

“Creating and working with others kept me afloat, a lot of binge-watching series helped at first but truly a solid one to hour-long walk was my saving grace. It helped me tremendously when I needed air and to move my body.”

On what she does to relax

“I’ve gotten back into knitting. I forgot how much I enjoy it. I find I use my phone a lot and the constant scrolling, refreshing again and again, makes me anxious. I feel like I need to keep my hands active as it’s now a habit. So, knitting helps. With knitting, you have to concentrate on the task at hand. I find my body relaxes, I’m zoned out but still aware of those around me. I notice certain habits I do because I’m stressed or anxious stop when I’m knitting.”

On the music she winds down to

“It depends, I’d most likely stick on a random movie or series on tv when at home to wind down. But oftentimes an Afrobeat playlist sets the right vibe.

On her upcoming Electric Picnic performance 

“I’m extremely excited to get back in front of a crowd! It was 2018 when I last went to Electric Picnic doing background vocals, and now 2022, I’m performing my own set. I just want to create a jaw-dropping set that draws people into that moment created on that stage with me and my band. It’s a big moment for me and I want this journey I’m on to keep going – I’m on the Sunday, so come watch me!”

Darkness Into Light takes place Saturday, May 7 and you can register for the fundraiser on the website now.