Amid rising reports of poor mental health among dental professions, and uncertainty about where to seek help, the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK)) has welcomed the recent launch of Confidental and the NHS Practitioner Health Programme.
Recent surveys have highlighted the high incidence of stress and depression among dental practitioners. According to the 2019 Dentistry Confidence Monitor report, 84% of NHS dentists and 51% of private dentists believe their current role has negatively affected their mental health. The majority of dentists were anxious about the risk of complaints and unhappy about their ability to do their job without feeling overly stressed, and a survey last year by Dental Protection found half of dentists had considered leaving the profession due to personal wellbeing. A sense of loneliness and isolation is also commonly cited in surveys, and BDA research has shown that almost a fifth of dentists have seriously thought about suicide.
Yet 72% of dentists responding to Dentistry Confidence Monitor said that they weren’t sure to whom they could turn for support.
Confidental, a helpline offering emotional support for dentists from fellow dentists, has recently been set up by Jeremy Cooper FFGDP(UK), former Faculty Vice-Dean Jenny Pinder, and fellow dentists Lauren Harrhy and Keith Hayes.
A team of trained volunteer dentists operate Confidental’s 24-hour helpline, available to listen confidentially and non-judgementally to the personal or professional concerns of callers - who may remain anonymous – and armed with information about where they can turn for further help. Confidental is still recruiting volunteers and seeking further funding, and anyone able to help is encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dentists in England experiencing mental ill health or addiction problems can also seek support from the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, a recently-launched service available to the profession regardless of whether or not they practice under an NHS contract.
As well as a helpline and text messaging service, the programme offers free consultations and talking therapy appointments with specialist practitioners, either remotely or face-to-face. As service users may be concerned about confidentiality within the professional community, they may register under a pseudonym if they wish, and are given a choice of named practitioners to be seen by, many of whom are beyond their immediate locality.
Other organisations to whom dentists can turn include:
The Dentists’ Health Support Trust, which provides dental professionals with free support and advice on mental health, alcohol and drug issues, and reports an 80% success rate in helping dentists overcome their problems and ‘get their lives back on track’.
The British Doctors and Dentists Group, a mutual help group for doctors and dentists who are recovering, or wish to recover, from addiction to or dependency on alcohol or other drugs.
The BDA Benevolent Fund, which supports dental students, dentists and their families in financial need (irrespective of whether they are or were members of the BDA).
Confidental – freephone 0333 987 5158, 24 hours a day
NHS Practitioner Health Programme – freephone 0300 030 3300 (8am – 8pm Monday to Friday & 7.30am to 2.30pm on Saturdays)