Practice Plan Area Manager, Suki Singh, caught up with dentist Dr Ritesh Aggarwal, of Psynergy Mental Health, to talk about the work they do to help dental practices improve the mental health of their staff…
SS: Hi Ritesh, can you explain a bit about Psynergy, why you started it and what you do?
RA: I started it because I felt mental health was being assessed subjectively and was reliant upon users giving an honest opinion to questions they were asked, and I found that strange. In dentistry, we work on prevention, but with mental health people tend to seek care when they have a problem.
So, I wanted to bring a whole different assessment and preventative approach when it comes to mental health, so myself and my co-founder launched Psynergy in 2019. We offer a range of services, such as data driven insights analysing your mental health culture, mental health strategies, online programmes, cognitive testing, and brain activity measurements.
SS: Why is it so important that dentists look after their mental health in the workplace?
RA: Mental health is an important topic in any workplace, however, dentistry comes with a lot of stresses and strains that are put on dentists and practices. For years it was a case of just crack on and sort yourself out and hope things work out, but that is and always has been hard. There are times, and I’ve been through it, where you feel like a failure and that can really impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Confidence can go down, and it’s difficult, so it is important to keep on top of your mental health because dentistry does come with a lot of challenges. And over the course of this article, I’ll explain what we do to help and where you can go for help.
SS: What can practices do to help and improve the mental health and wellbeing of their staff?
RA: First of all, there are a host of resources out there online that we can signpost you to. As I have mentioned, we too have created products that we have implemented in practices. However, the first thing you can do when it comes to mental health is talk.
My advice would be to have weekly or fortnightly meetings to go through health and safety issues and bring mental health to the front of that straight away. We do this in our practice during our staff meetings, and we have developed a culture where people feel comfortable to chat like that. It is about bringing mental health onto the agenda. To begin with, you’ll probably get no one wanting to talk, but as things develop people will start to open up.
When we talk about mental health it usually has a negative connotation to it, however, talking positively about things can really help.. When having a chat about mental health, make it a positive conversation, look at the positive parts, and look at how you can prevent things in the future.
A mental health strategy is another thing that can really help. We implemented a strategy and we’re working through it over the next year. We’re creating policies around depression, anxiety and panic, and risk assessments based on HSE management standards, and it has a ton of information for people.
SS: Since starting Psynergy Mental Health, has it changed the way that you run and manage your practice?
RA: Yes, certainly. We launched a survey to again, open up the conversation, and give us quantifiable evidence about what is happening in our practice according to the staff. We used that evidence to understand the culture of the practice and then improve certain things for the team.
This data driven practice wellness report is a fantastic way of measuring and understanding the mental health and wellbeing culture of your practice. It is great for evidencing the “well led” key line of enquiry for CQC purposes which asks you to demonstrate an open and fair culture within your practice. On top of this it is easy to use, mobile optimised and value for money.
On a personal note I have tried to work on a few things; one example is to give more autonomy to my staff members, which has been great from my own personal perspective, because I feel as though I’ve lifted my workload a little bit. I think quite often, as dentists, we feel as though we have to do everything.
The other big thing that I’m trying to work on is perfectionism. The very nature of our job means we will do it to the best of our ability. If it falls slightly short, we don’t look at the 99% of it that’s really good. We look at that 1% and go, “Oh, I could have done that better,” and we beat ourselves up over it.
SS: If there’s anyone out there, a dentist that might be struggling with mental health or a staff member with their wellbeing, what would your advice be? Where could they go?
RA: My biggest and best bit of advice is talk to somebody. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a professional, and it doesn’t have to be paid for, just talk to someone because we don’t talk enough.
People still put barriers up when it comes to mental health but getting things off our chest is still the most important thing we can do. Being strong enough to say, ‘you know what, I need a bit of help here’, or ‘I just need someone to listen.’ That takes some serious inner courage. That’d be the biggest thing that I would suggest is for people to talk.
Ritesh is the Principal Dentist and Owner of Edge Dental Studio, and also the co-owner and Managing Director of Psynergy Mental Health.