As well as being a physically demanding profession, dentistry is also obviously mentally demanding …So are you doing anything to review and monitor your mental health?
A survey on wellbeing, carried out by the BDA, suggested that dentists are nearly twice as likely to feel dissatisfied with life compared with the general population. The dentists surveyed also reported higher levels of anxiety than the wider population1 so it’s clear this continues to be a real issue for the profession.
Most people feel stressed, frustrated, upset or anxious in certain situations and, for the majority of those people, these feelings will pass…but for some, they stay and can develop into a more serious problem.
Why are dentists so susceptible to stress?
Mick Armstrong, the chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee said, “It’s hardly surprising that dentists are stressed – just providing good dental care for our patients and managing their increasing expectations within a shrinking budget is challenging. Inevitably job satisfaction will suffer when you also factor in the multiple layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and targets that dentists have to face.”1
Dental Protection came to a similar conclusion, in their ‘Wellness’ advice booklet, saying ‘Not only are we required to work in an intricate manner in a sensitive and intimate part of the body, sitting in the same position for long periods of time, but we are also responsible for the smooth and seamless management of the patients on our day list. Added to this may be the ever-increasing demands and expectations of patients and a constant awareness of not running behind schedule. Work-related financial pressures can emerge both at a personal level and from the complex challenges of running and working in a small business. As if this wasn’t enough, we have to ensure that we maintain the clinical excellence expected by our patients, colleagues and a variety of regulatory bodies. Faced with all these factors, and for the most part, not having received any particular training in, for example, people skills or financial management, it is little wonder that we can fall victim to stress related illnesses, either mental, physical or both.’2
A certain amount of stress and pressure can reportedly be healthy for you, and some individuals thrive on it. But if we’re put under abnormal pressure excessively or over a long period of time, it could turn into an illness and physical and mental exhaustion.3
These conditions can also force dentists to take time off work; in 2014 17% of all Dentists’ Provident’s claims paid were for psychiatric disorders.
Signs and symptoms
With one in four British adults suffering with at least one diagnosable mental health issue in any one year,4 it’s very important that we look out for the signs and triggers of mental health issues in our family, friends, practice team and indeed ourselves.
Here are a few potential warning signs to look out for in yourself or others:5
Last year, a Dentists’ Provident member, in their late 20s suffered from anxiety and depression and was off work for four months.
Help and advice
There are many free support services available, to help people deal with issues that may lead to mental health problems. They may also give advice regarding suitable medical and alternative treatments for people already suffering with a mental health condition.7
It seems more people are comfortable to speak openly about mental health issues now, than say 40 years ago. And in October last year, the NHS announced the steps they will make to enable the setting of access and waiting time standards, to achieve better access to mental health services by 2020.8
The Mental Health Foundation, who are known as the UK’s leading mental health research, policy and service improvement charity, has a network of people who are willing to attend public events to speak about their experiences, aiming to raise awareness, dispel the myths and reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.9
With 11-17th May being mental health awareness week, now might be the right time to speak out about concerns you may have with your own, or a close friend or colleague’s mental health.
References available on request.
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