Concerns around the mental health of dentists across the UK have continued to grow over recent years – with many studies showing the high levels of stress and anxiety felt within the profession.
A survey conducted by the BDA back in 2019 found that over half of the dentists who responded were suffering high levels of stress in their jobs, with 43 per cent stating they could not cope with the levels of stress. Almost two years on and the pressure in the industry has only increased.
Dr Jeremy Cooper, a dentist based in Salford, had seen first-hand this increase in stress, pressure and anxiety among his fellow professionals and two years ago launched 24/7 helpline Confidental with his colleagues, with the aim to support the profession through some of their toughest times.
Here, he talks about his journey in setting up this invaluable service, how it’s supporting the profession and what it can offer those who need to reach out.
Ten years ago, I saw an anonymous post from a dentist who had gone to work on a normal day and had used something as innocuous as Corsodyl on a patient. Unfortunately, this patient suffered an anaphylactic shock and sadly died and, as a result, the dentist was investigated. His story really touched me, as I’m sure it did others, but it also left me thinking that it could have been me.
Reading about the mental trauma that this individual went through, alongside all the tragic stories I’d heard in the past and my own experiences of how it felt to walk the plank every day, especially if you’re going through something like a tribunal or investigation, I realised that we really do need more support as a profession.
So, with some of my colleagues and backing of the profession, we launched Confidental in 2019 and in 2020 we were awarded charity status.
How Confidental help
I was not alone in thinking we needed a helpline that was there to listen and be an empathetic ear for dentists to talk to, and that is exactly what we do. We are a listening and signposting service and all of our volunteers are a mixture of experienced and retired dentists, who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently we’re talking to 40 people a month.
People can ring in anonymously and as the helpline is focused on dentists listening to dentists, we’re the only organisation that provides an ear that understands their struggles, the unique difficulties they face and what they will be going through, because many of the volunteers have been in the same position ourselves.
Making the first call
For many people, the issue they will have is asking for help and making that first phone call because, as many of us know, dentists are very proud individuals who traditionally don’t really like to talk to anyone about their problems.
If you’re talking with a group of dentists and you ask how the practice is getting on, many of them will reply: ‘Things are fantastic, wonderful, great, marvellous’, when many of us know that underneath they’re really struggling.
As I’ve said, people may feel embarrassed or too proud to ask for help; however, the support is there and as professionals ourselves, we never judge as we understand the pressure in a way others may not.
For me, if anyone is finding things tough, for whatever reason, you can call us on 0333 987 5158, anonymously if you prefer, and we will listen.