Reality and a model

Last month, I began with a suggestion that you could share your thoughts with like-minded people in the NDT profession by sending them in to NDT News and/or BINDT. I am writing this before any such correspondence is likely to have arrived, but I would guess that not many people have grasped the opportunity. So, this month, rather than a passing comment on the importance of mental health, I thought I would devote the whole article to it.

I was, and still am, motivated by the recent television documentary presented by Prince William, titled: ‘Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health’. The Prince has done an amazing job to encourage British men to talk about mental health by using football as the catalyst. The BBC, in describing the documentary, refers to ‘breaking the taboo around the issue’. Prince William is not the only one promoting the importance of mental health. Over the past couple of years, progress has been made in a whole number of different areas, for example in other sports such as rugby league, through ex-service personnel talking about their experiences and in workplaces, where companies have put in place a range of mental health initiatives. In an independent newspaper supplement from Mediaplanet (Q4 2019), the CEO of the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) wrote about mental health in the workplace and the results of a survey undertaken by the association. Just under two thirds of manufacturing and engineering firms are actively taking steps to raise awareness and approximately half of these companies reported an employee taking time off due to mental health issues in the last year. There had been an increase in the number of employees reporting mental health issues in the past three years and slightly more than half were more likely to have changed their attitude towards mental health.

So the situation is improving but, when you listen to individual experiences of poor mental health, one common denominator is that the route back to good health is through communication, talking about your feelings and emotions to someone else. Until we can demolish the taboo described above, mental health will remain a problem. The reasons people do not talk about their feelings and emotions are myriad. The documentary talks about it not being ‘macho’. I am not particularly macho, but I am also not one to talk easily about what I would consider to be private issues. It was the way I was brought up. In addition, it is easy to rationalise why you should not say anything; you think you know what the response will be and you may not want to hear it or see the impact or you think that you should be able to deal with it yourself and not burden those close to you. Mental health issues can have a life-changing impact. The Stress Management Society uses the analogy of a wellbeing train. Each carriage of the train represents a different facet of our lives. If one carriage derails, it has the potential to derail many or all of the others.

As with physical illness or injury, the earlier the intervention the better. The key thing to note is that help is at hand. At a recent webinar I was introduced to the nine-box model (, which, in a similar way to the train, illustrates nine constituents to a healthy and balanced life. These are: family, relationships, friends, giving back, health, faith/values, personal growth, career and hobbies/passions.

Our attention to each of these will vary from time to time, but the key to maintaining an even keel is to not concentrate totally on one aspect at the expense of all the others. If there is discord in one then the others provide positive balance. The model can be used to assess where you are in each box and then compare that to where you want to be. Necessary actions can be identified.

The final tool I would like to mention comes from the mental health charity Mind ( Mind suggests the use of a wellness action plan and provides guidance documents for both managers and employees. Not everyone will want to share a plan with their employer, but just considering the questions is a good exercise for getting your thoughts in order and understanding yourself better. If you do prepare a plan or even a skeleton of one, you will be in a far better position to react positively should the unthinkable happen.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Jacobs or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX, UK. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438301; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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