Mental Health Issues Loom Large In Dentistry

Mental Health Issues Loom Large In Dentistry

Dentistry has long been recognised as a ‘market leader’ when it comes to the mental health issues affecting those who deliver it.

According to a British Dental Association survey of over two thousand dentists, just over a fifth – 17.6% - confessed to having experienced suicidal feelings.  

This week, 15 – 21st May is Mental Health Awareness Week .  Promoted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), this year’s theme is anxiety, which, according to new research undertaken by the MHF,  affected 73% of the population at some point over the two weeks of the survey period whilst 20% of people declare feeling anxious ‘most of the time’.

Six thousand adults took part in the MHF research which was conducted via an on-line survey. It aimed to identify the scale of the problem, the causes of anxiety and coping mechanisms.

Key triggers for anxiety include Social Isolation eg. death of loved one, unemployment, disability, living alone), Societal Pressures including gender issues, sexual orientation, the expectations still made of men to be financially successful, Socio-Economic factors – ‘financial wellbeing’ - and Negative Life Events.

Negative Life Events are those often uncontrollable events that can have a devasting impact on mental health like divorce, extreme stress at work e.g. bullying, harassment, a car accident or violent attack, excessive workload and financial strain.

Post pandemic dentistry can offer a perfect brew of Negative Life Events for practice owners and those whose livelihoods and mental well-being depend on security and certainty.

A survey of 224 dentists by the Dental Defence Union in July 2020 revealed 68% of respondents were troubled with stress and anxiety, a figure that can only have increased over the past year as the well documented crisis surrounding workforce recruitment and retention has left many practices unable to fill vacancies.   Some have been left with no alternative but to close.

Other dental ‘anxiety drivers’ include targets and clawback  if NHS, the impact of the cost-of-living-crisis on practice running costs,  meeting patient expectations, the constant threat of litigation from disgruntled patients and the mighty watch of the GDC and CQC.

One of the key objectives of Mental Heath Awareness Week is to reassure those affected that their experiences are commonplace, that there is no stigma, that help is available,  and that the sooner a person seeks help the better.

The profession’s dental defence organisations can fast-track members to counsellors and others trained to help.  The BDA also reaches out to members in distress and offers 24 hours support every day of the year via Health Assured, a confidential service that helps with a wide ranging basket of issues including stress, anxiety, bereavement, legal difficulties alcohol and drug abuse problems.

In a press release the BDA says ‘Anxiety can have severe negative effects on both your physical and mental health, such as long-term illness and declining performance. These issues impact on personal relationships and can also affect your practice.

It’s vital to recognise signs of anxiety and know where to find support to manage them.’

Want to know more about Mental Health Awareness?  Learn about anxiety and download the full report here

ConfiDental is a confidential listening ear and signposting helpline available 24/7, 365 days a year on 0333 987 515.

Whether you’re a dentist, dental hygienist, therapist or even dental care student, ConfiDental is available to support you.

Our friendly volunteers are experienced dental professionals who will listen and guide you to the right place. If you’re in emotional distress or just need someone who understands to talk to, ConfiDental is here to help you through those tough times.  

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