You are not alone during lockdown

you are not alone social media movement

Amber Ojak and Christie Lawton discuss their ‘you are not alone’ social media movement and explain why dental professionals should discuss their mental health.

We are sure we speak for most of dental care professionals when we say that 2021 was supposed to be a year that we would see a much-anticipated light at the end of the tunnel; hopefully getting past the unforgettable year of 2020.

In the summer of 2020, the DDU surveyed 224 members and found that 68% of dental professionals felt their stress and anxiety levels have increased since the pandemic began.

Fast forward to January 2021 and we are back in another lockdown. Yet fortunately this time around, dentistry remains open.

This is, of course, a huge relief to us all; knowing we are able to help our patients with any dental problems they may have. And also, thankfully, we can all continue to make a living.

It would, however, be remarkably interesting to see the results if the DDU were to repeat this survey now. We can imagine the percentage would be a lot higher.

Social media disguises

After multiple conversations with lots of dental professionals from all over the UK, it is clear there are many of us who are not coping with lockdown 3.0. And some are embarrassed to voice this.

We had a long conversation about the impact of the last year on all of us in the dental field and realised – if we were feeling an increase of mental health implications, we cannot surely be the only ones.

We are sure those using social media to connect with other dental professionals would agree. Social media is often a great disguise, making us seem like we’re doing well on the surface.

We show to the world that as dental professionals we are coping wonderfully and our patients would never know otherwise. Of course it remains that way, as we continue to carry ourselves with utmost professionalism and integrity.

However there is a general consensus that some days when we get home from a long day, the ‘Corona-coaster’ of anxiety and emotions can often catch up to us.

Worries about whether our PPE is fully protecting us catch up. Are we doing everything we can to keep our patients safe? When will this end and what will dentistry look like when it does?

Many of us suffered financial implications when we were shut down last year. Now with patients advised to stay at home and appointments cancelled or rearranged, it is easy to see how this could affect us all once again.

You are not alone

After speaking about our own experiences, we suppose we just want to admit that this is difficult for us all sometimes.

We both decided to use our voices in a hope to show others that it is okay not to be okay. And have created a small movement on social media titled ‘You are not alone’. This encourages others to share their own experiences, struggles and coping mechanisms.

The outcome of this is amazing. It often reassures those who are sometimes struggling mentally, that they are not the only ones.

Understandably, some professionals have even felt that they couldn’t share their mental struggles. Some may feel guilty because they feel it’s less important than what other healthcare professionals are going through at the moment; especially those on the front line in hospitals.

We must not let these feelings of guilt, or doubt get the better of us. While we are not necessarily saving lives directly, we are making a huge difference to people’s lives, daily.

We all remember the stories from the first lockdown, of people carrying out DIY dentistry; what a relief it is this time around that we are able to help those that truly need us.

So, next time it all gets a little bit too much, try not to bottle these feelings up; speak to a colleague, a friend or family member. Just know that you are not the only one who feels it – you are not alone.

Some self-care tips

A few great self-care recommendations that have helped fellow dental professionals:

  • Exercising and getting outdoors rather than staying within the same four walls
  • Reading books or magazines
  • Colouring books for adults
  • Watching a good box set or two
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Writing a journal.

In addition to these, ‘The guide to Wellbeing Support for the Dental Team’ has recently been published. It is a free resource for anyone who may need some guidance during this period.

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