Insights – 6 min read

Am I Okay?

September 29, 2023
By Dr. Mark Whittington and Gaby Bush

The power of the pre-mortem: “Am I Okay?”

In the midst of our busy lives we all too often neglect the importance of checking in on those around us in order to ask a simple question with important and far-reaching consequences: “Are you okay?”

I think there is a more important question: “Am I Ok?” It is critically important that you take control of and responsibility for your own mental health. One of my favourite and most frequently used metaphors is that of driving to a destination versus being driven there as a passenger. With your hands on the wheel, you will remember how you got there. If you are a passenger, you may still get lost even after making the same journey many times.

Post-mortem versus Pre-Mortem.

You are more than likely quite familiar with the term post-mortem (the examination of a deceased person by an Anatomical or Forensic Pathologist to ascertain the cause of death). As a professional practitioner devoted to improving a lot of the living, you will hardly be surprised to learn that I regard that as being too little too late! I much prefer the idea and practice of what I like to call a pre-mortem. Simply put: A pre-mortem can do much to postpone your post-mortem.

And that is where the simple question, “Am I Okay?” will take you.

However, be warned; a thorough pre-mortem can be quite painful. Even though they are simple, the questions can be challenging. Taking action to change toxic behaviour is even harder. Some of the questions are obviously relevant to physical health and others to your state of mental well-being. Here is an example of some of the questions you should ask yourself:


As human beings, we thrive on connection and social interaction. By asking someone if they are okay, we convey our genuine interest and concern for their well-being. This simple act opens the door for honest and open communication, allowing individuals to share their struggles, fears, and challenges. By actively listening and providing support, we strengthen our relationships and build a sense of trust and understanding with others. When we take the time to ask “Are you okay?” we demonstrate that we are willing to be there for one another, fostering a sense of community and compassion.

The Three-legged Stool of Happiness:

Someone to love. Something to do. Something to look forward to.

I am a great advocate of keeping things simple. I believe that the metaphorical stool of happiness has three legs:

  1. Someone to love.
  2. Something to do.
  3. Something to look forward to


Ask yourself about these three things often. With these factors in mind, having asked yourself, “Am I Okay?” and having conducted your own pre-mortem, you will be in a far better position to ask others if they’re okay and to be genuinely helpful. Furthermore, you will be in a far better position to help them, not only to understand the complexities of their own unique circumstances but also what actions they can take to aid their pursuit of happiness and mental wellbeing. If you have read this far, I am willing to bet my metaphorically bottom dollar that you will increasingly find yourself able to answer to the question, “Am I ok?” in the positive.


About the author

Dr. Mark Whittington and Gaby Bush

Dr. Mark Whittington is a graduate of the distinguished Otago Medical School, and has more than 30 years’ experience working at the clinical coalface as a Consultant Psychiatrist.

Gaby Bush is a creative director, writer ,ex-patient, corporate refugee, and survivor of severe PTSD. Gaby is living proof of how well the Metaphorical Therapy System works in the real world.

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