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21 Jul 2022

Mental health wellness in the dental laboratory

Mental health wellness in the dental laboratory

Awareness surrounding mental health has increased drastically in the past few years. We now have a much greater appreciation for how mental wellbeing can impact an individual, their quality of life, their work and their happiness. Continuing to improve understanding and spread education among the profession on the topic is essential if we are to create the best possible environment for dental technicians.

Sarah Davies-Hibbert spoke on the subject as part of the OTA Seminars at the recent DTS. An open and approachable speaker, she made the session relatable to all and encouraged delegates to look at their lives to see where they could better support their own mental health.

When was the last time you had a day to yourself, or an afternoon spent doing something you like to do? Sarah highlighted the importance of “you time”, not only for your sanity and wellbeing, but also for the sake of your family and your work. None of us can operate at our best when we’re burnt out, exhausted and always on the go. Sometimes, taking a few hours out of work – though it feels counter-productive – can help you reset and get through your to-do list more efficiently when you return. 

In a similar vein, Sarah encouraged delegates to be more proactive in areas where they have issues. If you can’t sleep, don’t just lay there counting down the hours until you must get up. Instead, do something about it – read a book, listen to music, use essential oils. For future, set up a routine before bed that will help you relax and encourage better sleep, perhaps cutting out caffeine in the afternoon or not drinking alcohol. 

Sarah went on to talk about anxiety. Though none of us are complete strangers to the feeling, it’s essential that we acknowledge when our anxiety is growing and how stop it from taking over our lives. Identify where it’s coming from, what’s causing it and challenge anxious thoughts to give yourself some balance. The incredibly sad reality is that anxiety and depression can consume an individual until the point that they feel there’s no return – preventing it from getting to this stage is essential.

That said, Sarah was very clear that we cannot all be 100% happy 100% of the time. Allowing time to feel and process negative emotions is important; simply ignoring them all the time is not a healthy approach. 

Getting delegates involved, Sarah provided a few minutes there and then for the audience to reflect on their own mental health, to think about whether they too had felt the build-up of anxiety and what they might do at home or in the lab to make a positive change in their lives.

Offering a more structured approach for the laboratory, delegates were introduced to a mental wellness framework. Sarah encouraged everyone to look at the document and ensure that their businesses were following the guidance, including the appointment of a wellness lead in the lab, stress awareness training, mental health first aid training and mechanisms for peer support. 

Delegates took several important messages away from Sarah’s session, including the reinforcement that support for mental health and wellbeing remains critical in the dental laboratory. We have all felt under pressure in recent times, so ensuring there are protocols in place to help those who are struggling is a must. 

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