It’s Mental Health Awareness Month 2019, I’d been meaning to write something but this wasn’t it. I feel that whilst I’m talking and writing about mental health in the dental profession year round that it’s important to contribute when arguably the most ears are listening. I find it hard though because to write and talk about it I’m transported back to what it felt like, looked like, sounded, tasted and smelt like to be so deep into a darkness that suicide felt like a reasonable solution. To be reminded of the shame I retrospectively attach to imagining a world that that would’ve been better off without me. It’s easy to see clearly now and scary to think that I fell so far down the rabbit hole. It’s easy to feel shame, anger and fear all at once, something I’m not sure I’ll ever completely be at peace with or have enough distance from.
Writing or filming something had been on and off my mind for a week or two but I was caught by surprise in the gym of all places. Cooling down on a stationary bike, scrolling through twitter. I came across the headline :
‘GP killed himself fearing he’d lose his job if he talked about his mental health’
There was a lovely photo of a happy young man. I read as much as I could, I didn’t even realised I’d stopped cycling. I felt unbelievably sad, quickly outraged, angry and then fell into my own grief.
I didn’t know this doctor, Miles, close to my age, married with children. But I knew his story too well because it was so very nearly mine. Holding back tears in the gym and collecting my thoughts I left and sat in my car. Sitting where I so often film a post workout reflection/accountability video for my online audience, I decided to film despite my highly emotional state, that something needed to be said.
The stigma around mental health issues must stop, especially within the healthcare professions. We are human and must be permitted everything that comes with that, that to be held to super human standards will be destructive to the whole of health care.
The fear that surrounds the labels and diagnoses being attached to a health professional and the potential repercussions from our professional bodies needs addressing. The fear is loss of income, loss of good standing within the profession, removal of practicing certificates, loss of career and identity in one stroke.
Healthcare professionals, especially dentists, are at higher risk of suicide than most professions. The barriers to accessing the help we need, easily and confidentially need removing. We need to feel supported not isolated, we need seeking help and admitting concerns to be embraced, normalised and praised. The elephant in the room isn’t going anywhere, if anything it’s getting bigger!
Who will care for us when the healthcare professionals are all broken and gone? Let’s look after the humans behind The Hippocratic Oath.
My thoughts and prayers are with Miles,his family, friends and colleagues. And also with the rest of us….. #notonemore