It’s OK not to be OK
Updated: Jan 27
Feelings aren’t something that most of us are comfortable talking about. Instead, we do the opposite, immersing ourselves in distractions such as work, sport or even the television.
When we’re asked how we’re keeping, the answer is usually something like “ach sure I can’t complain” or “I’m dead on”.
Even when others notice a change in our behaviour, we often dismiss it with something like “I’m OK, I’m just tired”. And for many of us, that’s exactly what it is. A few late nights in a row, pressure at work or college – or maybe even a lodge meeting that’s went on a bit longer than it should have.
However, for many of us, it could be something more than that.
For 1 in 4 adults, and 1 in 9 young people, mental health issues are a reality of daily life. Many struggle to get out of bed in the morning as they dread the day ahead, many worry and stress over every single potential scenario the day might bring.
Feeling mentally and physically drained and struggling to find any real enjoyment in life, the things we once loved and which once gave us so much fulfilment, seem irrelevant and purposeless.
When we bottle up that small voice inside us telling us somethings not OK, when we are told to ‘man up and get on with it’ and when we ignore our own bodies and minds warning signs then that voice can become a silent scream.
If we twist our ankle playing football, or fall off a ladder and break an arm, we naturally go to the doctor or the hospital where we tell them what’s wrong and we receive the appropriate treatment to aid recovery. So, if we take that much care of ourselves physically, then why do we neglect the most important part of our body?
When we know that something’s wrong, rather than talk to the doctor or talk to our families and friends, we continue to bottle it up and ignore it due to embarrassment, fear or even shame.
That should not be the case – we need to recognise that our mind is like any other part of our body, it needs help every now and again. Just like when we break a bone and need some pain relief and treatment, sometimes our mental health needs treatment too. Sometimes that can be a simple chemical imbalance that can be sorted out with medication, sometimes it may be that we need help talking a problem through until we find a solution.
Since being appointed as the Youth Development Officer for Grand Lodge as part of the Drew Nelson Legacy Project, I have taken a keen interest in a range of challenges affecting young people in our Institution. Mental health issues are a major focus of concern for local society and the Orange family is not immune from these problems.
In 2017, 305 people died as a result of suicide in Northern Ireland. 234 (70%) were men almost half of which were under the age of 40. These are frightening statistics and must be a call to action for us all.
In order to help spread the message that help is available, Grand Lodge has teamed up with Lifeline - the Northern Ireland crisis response helpline service for people who are experiencing distress or despair. No matter what your age or where you live in Northern Ireland, if you or someone you know is in distress or despair, Lifeline is there to help, providing confidential and professional support 24/7.
Elizabeth Irvine of Lifeline with GOLI Youth Development Officer Gary McAllister.
The charity also provides support and guidance to families and carers, concerned friends, professionals, teachers, youth workers, clergy and community leaders. People living in Northern Ireland can call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.
Deaf and hard of hearing Textphone users can call Lifeline on 18001 0808 808 8000. Calls to Lifeline are free to people living in Northern Ireland who are calling from UK landlines and mobiles. Those in the Republic of Ireland can access similar help via the Samaritans helpline on 116 123.
I am currently working with a number of other mental health agencies across the province to identify and deliver training on mental health awareness and on how we can all look after our own minds, and those of our members a little bit better.
It’s OK not to be OK – so no matter how big or small your problem is, talk to someone and remember that a problem shared, is often the best first step to seeing a problem solved.
If you’d like to find out more, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 9070 1122.