A number of people have commented to me about my openness when discussing my mental health and how they’d be concerned that it would undermine patients’ confidence in me.
The answer is to this simple conundrum, apart from the fact that 99.9% of my patients don’t read my blogs (though I’d be happy if they did), is that I feel comfortable with who I am and what I deal with. The highs and lows, periods of insecurity and loss of self esteem, are often the times that drive me to become better. Not to become complacent in my own abilities and always to push myself to improve, for myself and for my patients.
In the last week we’ve seen Simone Biles and Ben Stokes, two athletes supposedly at the peak of their powers, step back from their profession for the benefit of their mental health.
I have enormous respect for these athletes who are constantly under public scrutiny to take this stand and I feel that now this is perceived as a more acceptable approach that “keep smiling and carry on” we will see less devastating losses like Gary Speed.
Being able to speak out about mental health issues is a strength, not a weakness. To take ownership of the situation and not pretend that it doesn’t exist takes great character. It gives you the power to regain control of the situation. Ignoring it leaves you vulnerable to the next episode. Embracing it let’s you plan and prepare so each time it hits you, you can hit back a little bit harder, get back a little bit faster.
If there is anybody who doesn’t want to be a part of my life because of all this, whether they were a friend or a patient, then I know I’m far better off without them.
My pledge to my wonderful patients is that of ever I get to a time when I feel that my mental health is going to significantly inhibit my ability to be a dentist, I will stop. Maybe just for the day, maybe for longer, much as Ben Stokes and Simone Biles have. The aim of course is to never get there, but you have to take your hat off to any person who has the strength to stand up, risk feeling like they’ve let people down and admit that they need to take a break.