“I thought that was a wonderful idea that one could be in hell without being in it, like “Just Visiting” on the Monopoly board.”
This quote is taken from the book “Legend of a Suicide” by author David Vann’s. It’s a short story about an estranged son-father relationship, where father, who was a dentist, ultimately commits suicide
During the college times where the dental students are time and again and in every year taught and reminded about the dental treatment of care of patients suffering from psychological disorders, how many times have you as a student, sat down and thought about your mental well-being?
Mental health is a growing subject now in every field. There is also a growing concern and awareness about it in a lay man. In healthcare, most of the conversations surrounding the impact of mental health on caregivers are about physicians.
But dentists are equally, if not more prone to such issues. Many factors play a role in mental health and since May is Mental Health Month—the 70th year of the awareness month—it’s a good time to take a closer look at what dental practice leaders, doctors and teams can do to improve the overall well-being of those suffering from mental health challenges.
Let’s take a look at some statistics now,
- CDC’s National Occupational Mortality Surveillance for the years 1999 through 2010 found that dentists were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to die by suicide as members of the general population.
- A November 2011 article from the Journal of Affective Disorders found that the risk of suicide is increased among health professionals and dentists held the highest suicide rate at 7.18 percent for men and women combined.
- The American Dental Association also found 11 percent of dentists were diagnosed with depression, and 6 percent of dentists surveyed had an anxiety disorder, while only 3.1 percent of the general population did
- The #1 killer of dentists is stress-related cardiovascular disease.
Don’t be fooled these are just a few facts stated here. There are many more such alarming researches published and to be published
So why us? Since we are not in a position of becoming a lawyer or an engineer anymore, so let’s see what is different in this profession.
Dentists are in a unique position, both literally and figuratively. They spend their days bend over the patient peeking into their mouths, the smallest working field if you ask a dentist, and also their minds. Our necks hurt, our backs are killing us and our hands couldn’t be any more tired by holding the rotary instruments and a million other things.
All these series of combined processed put us under a lot of stress. Other contributing factors are
Dental offices are mostly small spaces with a lot of instrument and loads of gadgets and tons of other triggers and things happening around (Don’t forget the never-ending beeps & whirring of x-ray machine and instruments)
Most dentist practice alone and hence it gets difficult to share their feelings and problems with others.
High expectations from patients. Dentist’s hope to give the best treatment in minimum time raises his/ her expectation from themselves pretty high
Let’s face it, if the practice isn’t running that smooth or popular, it can be a barrier for thriving.
It can be difficult to separate personal and professional problems and hence we might be prone to carry work place stress at home and vice-versa. A dentist’s personality can also be a cause of some stress (eg. thriving for perfection etc)
Now how do we solve this problem?
- First of all, I personally vote for a special counselor or office pertaining to these topics in the college for students and they should also be made aware of the signs and symptoms of such diseases.
- Dentists and dental professionals should be aware of any such changes happening to them and seek help as soon as possible.
- Dental hospitals and offices should be made as stress free possible.
- Regular meetings among dental professionals in the surrounding area (like the alcoholics anonymous) where they could share their feelings.
- Dentist should stick to a maximum number of patients which he/she will be treating in a day.
- Posture should be watched while treating a patient with adequate breaks between patients.
- Lastly, DON’T PUT SO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
I couldn’t endorse this much, please seek help if you feel even the slightest “out of place” or “not normal” and also help others go through their struggles.
PLEASE BE KIND
“Life is stressful, dear. That’s why they say “Rest in Peace.”