May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In a recent survey of dentists done by the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 71% had anxiety-related symptoms, 60% had depression-related symptoms, and 92% had symptoms of stress. Dentists working in the independent sector had more psychological symptoms compared with those in the public sector. Overall, 92% of the dentists were experiencing some form of psychological symptoms. We must bring awareness to these statistics and support our colleagues in the dental industry.

Similarly, in the medical profession, a 2021 article published in The Lancet highlighted that even with professional training and awareness, physicians are not immune to mental illness with between a quarter and a third reporting increased symptoms of mental illness. It also stated that female physicians are at an increased risk of suicide. The additional strain of working through the recent pandemic may have amplified these problems. The article stresses that there is an urgent need for organizational-level interventions, to better protect the mental health and well-being of physicians.

The mental wellness of individual healthcare providers is highly important, and the effect on the quality of job performance should also be considered. In a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on November 27, 2019, it was determined that physicians’ depressive symptoms were associated with medical errors. This data emphasizes that physician well-being is critical to patient safety.

As healthcare providers, we need to be aware of our patients’ mental health but also of our own mental well-being. By working together, we can help to remove the stigma often associated with seeking mental health care and all will benefit.

Frank King, The Mental Health Comedian and Suicide Prevention Speaker, has made a career of bringing mental health and suicide to light. Frank infuses humor into his content and uses personal experiences to highlight the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. He presented “Treating the Pain Behind the Smiles: Suicide Prevention for Dental Professionals” at AAOSH Hot Topics in February 2022.

With a growing number of Americans experiencing mental health symptoms, we need to work together to advocate for improving our nation’s mental health care system. Mental health is an incredibly important part of overall health.

References:

Ranka, Meena Satish, and Satish R Ranka. “Survey of Mental Health of Dentists in the COVID-19 Pandemic in the UK.” Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, Wolters Kluwer – Medknow, 30 Jan. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7934820/.

“Mental Illness and Suicide among Physicians.” The Lancet, 4 Sept. 2021, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01596-8/fulltext.

Karina Pereira-Lima, PhD. “Association between Physician Depressive Symptoms and Medical Errors.” JAMA Network Open, JAMA Network, 27 Nov. 2019, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2755851.

Abby Middleton