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Being a student can be stressful enough, but for dental students, there are a range of extra pressures added on top. With longer terms, timetables packed with lectures and clinics, the need to get to grips with treating patients and to hit clinical targets, sometimes the strain of dental school can get too much.
We know that up to half of dental students will experience stress or psychological distress at some point over their course. For some, this can lead to diagnoses of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
In a way, it’s no wonder that a group of high-achieving people studying a really demanding academic and clinical degree should find ourselves more likely to experience stress and mental health issues and this makes it so important that we have the right support in place.
The British Dental Student Association (BDSA) and the BDA Students Committee have been looking at what is in place across dental schools to support students who are struggling with stress and mental ill-health.
We’ve heard of some positive examples of dental society’s running wellbeing activities, support offered by students’ unions and of dental schools taking steps to ensure pastoral support is at hand.
However, it’s clear that there is still more to be done, and that some dental students are still struggling and falling through the gaps.
That’s why it’s really welcome news that the BDA is now offering student members free access to Health Assured
, a comprehensive and confidential package of services to help you deal with personal and professional problems that could be affecting your home life or work life, health and general wellbeing.
This support includes a 24/7 confidential helpline, telephone counselling, online cognitive behavioural therapy as well as an app, and online advice on health and wellbeing. Legal advice, bereavement support and the option to speak to a trained nurse are also available.
I stress to add that it really is completely confidential – no-one at your dental school or the BDA, or anyone else, will be party to anything you discuss. The service isn’t just a one-off call either, you can speak to someone over a series of calls, if you want to, to ensure you are getting the support you need.
It can be difficult to take the first step but remember you’re not alone in struggling and seeking help - it is no reflection on you as a person or as a future dentist. Hiraa Jamil has written a really helpful article
on her experiences dealing with depression and anxiety for the BDJ Student – and talks about why we need to fight the stigma against being able to admit to it when you need more support.
The Health Assured programme offers advice, support and counselling which can provide vital help if it’s all become too much, so please really do consider giving them a try. There are also a number of other ways to get support from friends and family, your pastoral tutor, the university counselling services or your GP and local mental health service.
I hope, as a dental community, this will mark an important step forward in talking about the stress we are all under, how it affects us and how we can deal with it - to ensure that we are taking care of ourselves and each other. Erin Jaffray, BDSA President
- Samaritans provides confidential support to anyone experiencing difficulties or in distress: tel 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI) - these numbers are free to call, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dentists in Northern Ireland can access local helplines: Lifeline NI, tel 0808 808 8000 or Samaritans Belfast, tel 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply)
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