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‘Project Light’ helps raise mental health awareness

A Preceptory in Co Armagh has helped shine a light on men’s health issues, offering hope, support and guidance to enable men to build resilience in the face of adversity.

Grip Fast the Light RBP 54 in Markethill recently facilitated a highly successful men’s wellbeing initiative called “Project Light”.

Although members of RBP 54 are more familiar with light in the Biblical sense, this project shone a light on how men can better manage issues of mental wellbeing and stress.

Prior to the Covid pandemic, Northern Ireland had the highest prevalence of mental illness in the UK, with an incidence of around 16 deaths per 100,000 individuals per year. It is widely recognised that the pandemic has further amplified this crisis. Families have been separated, vulnerable people found themselves largely housebound, and parents have had to juggle the competing challenges of homeworking and homeschooling.

The pandemic has left many people of all ages feeling anxious, lonely or overwhelmed, often with latent mental health issues coming to the fore for the first time.

Project Light provided a range of helpful and practical resources which highlighted the importance of maintaining social interactions – even virtually – at this time to build a sense of belonging and self-worth.

The initiative also highlighted the proven benefits of exercise to combat stress; the importance of mindfulness in helping men more effectively manage negative aspects of their lives; and the wellbeing benefits associated with a new interest, hobby or activity.

As a fraternal organisation which places great emphasis on supporting its members, both in a spiritual and practical manner, Project Light was yet another example of how RBP 54 supported its members during the Covid pandemic.

However, the Preceptory, which marks its 175th anniversary next year, was also busy reaching out to the wider community in a number of ways – including the provision of laptops to pupils at Markethill High School.

Recognising the importance of digital technology to children’s education – especially during those periods of remote learning brought on by the pandemic – RBP 54 set about providing computers to local students.

Earlier this year, nine laptops were presented to Mr Colin Berry, principal of Markethill High School, with a further 10 handed over in recent weeks.

The 19 laptops have been given to pupils on a permanent basis to assist with their studies during their time at the High School, and in the years ahead.

With a large percentage of the Preceptory’s members being former pupils of the school, RBP 54 was glad to be able to support the school in a practical manner during the pandemic – and the laptops were gratefully received by Mr Berry and his students.

The Preceptory is thankful to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for funding for both the Project Light and school laptop initiatives.

A spokesman for RBP 54 said: “As we emerge from the pandemic the Preceptory remains as committed as ever to working in the community, for the betterment of the community.”

Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Rev William Anderson, commended the Markethill Preceptory for all their charitable endeavours.

“Like so many others throughout our Institution, RBP 54 deserve huge praise for their civic-minded actions during the pandemic,” said Rev Anderson.

“Stories such as these fill me with great confidence that, with the return of regular in-person Preceptory meetings over the coming weeks, our Institution is in an excellent position to continue proclaiming the Christian message of the Cross and engaging in Chartable outreach in the wider community.”