Mental Health Awareness Week: a conversation to help others

Mental Health Awareness Week: a conversation to help others

Mark Allan, General Manager at Bupa Dental Care, and Dr Angus Pringle, a specialist orthodontist at Bupa Dental Care, share their views on the importance of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. 

Angus has family and friends who have faced mental health struggles and tragically lost loved ones to suicide. Mark and Angus are both sharing their experiences with the intention of helping those going through similar challenges.

Angus Pringle (AP): I’m a specialist dentist at the Wessex Dental Specialist Centre and Bupa Dental Care Winchester. I also like to think of myself as a mental health advocate, and I wanted to share my experience of someone close to me who died by suicide. 

What I’m about to say might be triggering for some, but it’s important for everyone to know that help is available, and that hope is essential in navigating mental health challenges.  

My journey started with the loss of a friend’s dad to suicide when I was 18. At that time, I didn’t fully understand what was happening. I felt that this kind of tragedy didn’t happen to families like ours. I’ve since lost my brother, who also died by suicide, and I can only describe the experience as utterly devastating. It really can happen to anyone. Sadly, I’ve also lost a classmate from dental school to suicide. Every time, it has been heartbreaking to see the impact on families, friends and colleagues.

Dealing with the aftermath of losing my brother was deeply distressing and traumatic. The pain in that moment never leaves you. It’s important to say that every person’s experience and grief are individual to them, and all feelings are justified. 

Dealing with the loss had a huge impact on my mental health – everything felt overwhelming and numb. I was scared to answer the phone, open the door, and even read my post.

Coping with loss

AP: I knew I needed help and spoke to my GP, and I’ll be forever grateful for their compassion and willingness to listen. They initially thought I was suffering from PTSD because of the severity of my symptoms. I experienced severe insomnia where I would lie awake until 2am or 3am and have nightmares. This resulted in being sleep-deprived, which is often paralleled with mental health problems.

We focused on how to get through my insomnia in the short term, so I was initially prescribed medication to help sleep. Although it gave me some relief, it was poor quality sleep and had side effects. So, a psychologist recommended trying sleep hygiene, which is a simple way to get your sleep patterns back to normal. It includes having consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, avoiding phones or TVs in the bedroom, and having a wind down process before bed. Initially, I was sceptical, but I persevered and worked hard at it. I started to notice positive changes – my sleep improved, and I began to feel better. 

Looking back, I remember feeling like nothing was positive in the world. I didn’t enjoy life, and I didn’t see any reason to continue living. I shared this with my psychologist, and he gave me a glimmer of hope. He said: ‘Angus, you might feel better tomorrow.’

This stuck with me and became a guiding light during my own struggles and in supporting others. It’s about believing that things can get better and that there are people who care and resources available to help. Sharing stories of hope and resilience can inspire others to keep going, even when they feel like giving up. Even on the darkest days, there will always be a sunrise and a new day. There are also many charities and professionals out there that can help.

Mark Allan (MA): That’s incredibly powerful, Angus. Your journey is so moving and shows the profound impact of mental health struggles and suicide on individuals and their loved ones.

Stigma around mental health and suicide

MA: Suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 50 (Office for National Statistics, 2023), which is startling. This trend has remained consistent since the 1990s. We also know dentistry has a higher incidence of suicide (FMC, 2024). As someone in the industry who has personal experience with suicide, can I ask about your thoughts on these statistics and how they make you feel?

AP: It’s tragic how suicide is the leading cause of death for men, but it’s not talked about due to the stigma around mental health and suicide. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having conversations about suicide to prevent it from happening. Dentistry, medicine, nursing and veterinary care are all known to be high-risk professions for suicide due to the pressure and emotions of caring for others. 

Seeking professional help was a pivotal step in my journey towards healing. It’s essential for anyone struggling with their mental health to reach out for support, whether it’s through a GP, therapist, or counsellor. 

Fortunately, I had a compassionate GP who listened to my concerns and guided me. Therapy provided me with a safe space to explore my thoughts and emotions, and it was through this process that I was able to identify and address underlying issues contributing to my struggles. Additionally, strategies like sleep hygiene, as recommended by my psychologist, helped me manage symptoms and improve my overall wellbeing. 

Wellbeing in the workplace

MA: Our mental health is no different from physical health. If you have a physical illness or injury, you go to the doctor. Likewise, if you’re not feeling good mentally, seeking help is the right thing to do. This has shaped my thinking on how we show up as leaders. At Bupa, we focus on creating a caring, supportive, and compassionate culture that prioritises people’s mental health and wellbeing. Moving forward, what do you hope to see in terms of mental health awareness and support within our communities and workplaces?

AP: It’s important to create environments where individuals feel comfortable discussing their mental health struggles without fear of judgment or stigma. Managers play a significant role in this, and they can be just as important as a GP or a therapist in listening to feedback and, if there’s a problem, supporting to find a solution. Education plays a key role too, so others are understanding and empathetic towards those experiencing mental health challenges. I believe with a culture of openness and support, we can truly make a difference in the lives of those affected by mental illness and suicide. 

MA: Absolutely, Angus. It’s so important that we, as leaders, have access to the tools to take care of our people.

Healthy routines

MA: I’m interested in knowing how you look after yourself day in and day out and your routine for maintaining good mental health?

AP: I’ll start by saying that I’m not perfect. However, being aware of what is good for you physically and mentally is crucial. I love reading books, and a great one about atomic habits talks a lot about this principle. Also, I try to maintain a consistent wake-up time and go to bed early.

I enjoy exercising, and cycling is my favourite activity, which I do five days a week, usually in the morning to avoid disrupting my family or work schedule. I feel amazing after being on the bike – it boosts me. As I am not in my 20s anymore, I am careful about my diet and what I eat, and I can see the difference it makes to have a more balanced energy level. 

In the practice, we talk a lot about positively approaching work and how our language can build better relationships with our patients and colleagues. I’ve learned that reducing stress for those around me also helps me reduce my stress levels. However, I also need to work on self-compassion and acknowledge that sometimes I’m not going to be at my best, and that’s okay. I set high standards for myself, but I’m learning to be kinder to myself and listen to my body when it needs rest.

Work-life balance

AP: Mark, how do you take care of your physical and mental health?

MA: Since joining Bupa, I’ve educated myself more on mental health, which has helped me understand it better. Although I’ve never experienced any significant mental health issues, when I look back, I have had periods where my mental health was probably poorer than normal, especially in my early 30s when I can remember having some challenging experiences. I’ve learned that life can be challenging, but understanding this helped me manage through it.

Day to day I have got some bad habits that I’m working on, but I try to take care of myself by exercising regularly, eating as healthily as I can, and spending quality time with my family. Our jobs can be all-consuming, but it’s crucial to maintain a work-life balance. After work, I [try my best to] avoid the habit and temptation to get out the laptop in front if the TV so that I can properly switch off.

AP: Thank you, Mark. I appreciate being able to share my story, and I hope it encourages others to seek help and support. 

Seeking support

AP: For anyone who is struggling with life, I want you to know that there are people who care about you and are willing to help you. If you are feeling suicidal, please remember that it is a temporary feeling, and it will pass. Sometimes, it can be hard to understand this in the moment. However, try to step back from the situation and realise that support will always be available for you. 

I support two charities: the Baton of Hope, which is focused on suicide prevention, and the Canmore Trust, which creates safe spaces for lives impacted by suicide. In July, we are doing a charity cycling challenge called The Flandrien Challenge in Belgium. It’s not a race to win; it’s a journey over 400km in three days. There’s no finishing line, which is very much like mental health. My friend and I will be going up all these gruelling cobbled climbs, which is a very good metaphor for what it’s like to go through mental health concerns.

To find out more, find me on social media. In the words of Dr Frasier Crane, I wish everyone good mental health. However, if you’re struggling, please reach out because people really care about you.

For more information, please visit


  1. Office for National Statistics, Deaths registered in England and Wales: 2022 (2023)
  2. FMC, Dentistry Census (2024).
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