The recovered drug addict and alcoholic has dedicated himself to raising awareness of mental health and addiction issues around the world
A Dublin man has spent his first night underground after burying himself alive in Belfast churchyard.
John Edwards is a former drug addict and alcoholic who has dedicated himself to raising awareness of mental health and addiction issues around the world.
The 62-year-old has been live-streaming from a custom-built coffin four feet underground at Belfast’s Willowfield Parish Church since yesterday afternoon.
The stunt aims to highlight the number of people who may be heading towards an early grave as a result of addiction and suicide.
It is part of his 'Walking Free' project which provides "spiritual, physical, educational and emotional care by reaching out to the lost and hurting in society."
“From 2pm Wednesday to 2pm Friday; so it is over three days; 48 hours,” Mr Edwards told Belfast’s Q Radio News.
He said it is his second time to have been buried alive – after he undertook a similar ordeal in Halifax in England last July.
“Last time we did it we reached 18 million people around the world, isn’t that incredible; 18 million people that is just off the charts,” he said.
The specially-made coffin is 8ft long by 3.5ft high and 4ft wide - and equipped with electricity and broadband to allow him to broadcast to the outside world.
A special tube has been fitted to provide fresh air and supplies.
Mr Edwards said he spent over 20 years as an addict and alcoholic – adding that the experience has allowed him to understand and help others facing similar difficulties.
“I was homeless, suicidal, abused, been in psychiatric hospitals,” he wrote on his website. “I have had cancer twice, a liver transplant, Hep C but now recovered; I have witnessed many of my friends and loved ones dying.”
Before entering the grave yesterday afternoon he admitted it “sounds like a crazy idea” but said he is driven by the loss of too many friends and too many young people who have overdosed or taken their own lives as a result of addiction.
“I have seen 23 of my 30 friends die from aids through dirty needles; from Hepatitis C and through suicide as well and drug addiction,” he said at the graveside.
“We want to put a stop to this. Our governments are doing the best that they can but it is going to take people like you and people like me to start doing stuff in our communities that is a little bit radical.”
“It is time for the common man; for him to lift up his voice in this country and to do radical types of outreach and to reach out to the people who are broken in houses and flats in communities like this and in other communities around Ireland.”
Mr Edwards will be live streaming from the grave until 2pm on Friday - when he will have spent 48 hours underground.
You can get in contact with him through Facebook and interact online through the hashtag #gravechat.