The Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 theme is ‘anxiety’, which, according to The Mental Health Foundation, affects six in ten UK adults*. Whilst it is important to always be thinking about mental health, just as we would our physical health, this awareness week is a perfect opportunity to give it focus, begin conversations, feel empowered to find support, and ultimately tackle the stigma around mental health across society.
Life at Bupa is about developing healthier bodies, supporting healthier minds, and developing healthier cultures in healthier places. The wellbeing of our colleagues is extremely important to us, which is why we are passionate about providing benefits to support them both physically and mentally. There is a variety of benefits available, and we encourage our teams to use them and talk about their positive impact, empowering other colleagues to do the same should they need to.
We sat down with Claire Shields, Practice Manager at The Raglan Suite in Harrogate, who realised she was struggling with her mental health and was able to take advantage of some of our benefits.
Claire has worked in dentistry for 23 years and finds the support and guidance she receives being part of a corporate invaluable.
“I found out very quickly that there is always somebody at the end of the phone who can offer support, no matter what the problem may be. From my experience of working for Bupa Dental Care, I have found them to be very engaging, they care about their colleagues and embrace and encourage personal development. They are very much about the people, and not just the patients, but the people who work for them.”
After the Covid-19 pandemic, Claire found herself struggling mentally, and wasn’t sure which way to turn.
“I have always prided myself on being a strong, reliable, independent person, but following the Covid-19 pandemic, I just felt like things weren’t right. There was a lot of pressure at home, a lot of pressure at work and I started to have negative thoughts.”
Claire is Practice Manager at The Raglan Suite in Harrogate. She is 46 years old, has been married for 24 years and has 3 daughters aged 16, 19 and 23.
Claire has worked in dentistry for 23 years, starting her career as a Trainee Nurse in May 2000 and quickly progressing to the role of Practice Manger. She has been a Practice Manager for 18 years and says her role is “extremely challenging and dynamic; you need to be able to spin a lot of plates at the same time!”
Having worked for an independent practice for 15 years, she then moved to The Raglan Suite, which is a referral practice, supporting referring dentists with more complex treatments. The Raglan Suite was acquired by Bupa Dental in October 2019.
Claire says that the stigma around using the words ‘mental health’ made her feel weak and she found it difficult to voice her feelings. However, after realising that she needed some help, she confided in her Area Manager, who pointed her in the direction of the Employee Assistance Programme.
On using the EAP, Claire says:
“Having reached out and finally plucked up the courage to call, I’ve had several therapy sessions, which have been so helpful. This service has provided me with ways to deal with the negative thoughts and manage my anxiety, which means I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago. I am much more accepting of my diagnosis, and when I am feeling overwhelmed, I use the grounding techniques that I was shown to help me.”
As well as benefitting from therapy sessions, Claire also took advantage of another employee benefit, Remote GP, where she was able to easily arrange an appointment with a GP at a time that suited her.
After opening up and sharing her story, Claire found that her colleagues were understanding and supportive. She now encourages her team to actively consider the benefits available to them as a Bupa Dental Care employee. She says:
“My team at The Raglan Suite were so amazing and understanding, it was very difficult for me to open up and let them know I was struggling. I felt they all looked up to me for help and support and felt a sense of weakness. I’m now confident and proud to share my experience. I’m always very open with my team, reminding them that they have access to these company benefits, and that help is only a phone call away should they need it.
“My advice would be to just ‘STOP’ and give yourself the time to make a call. We have to make time to look after ourselves before things start to spiral. Speak to your Manager, they can support you to get the help you need.”
Signs of poor mental health
Stress, anxiety, and depression are some of the most common mental health conditions that frequently go undiagnosed. However, you are not alone, and support is out there.
It is important to recognise when we aren’t quite feeling ourselves and need some help. We can also play an important role in supporting the people around us, like our colleagues, friends, and family.
Some of the early signs of poor mental health can be:
Where to get support
For our colleagues, Bupa Dental Care has a range of services to help you manage your mental wellbeing. These include: 24/7 Anytime HealthLine, Employee Assistance Programme, Family Mental HealthLine, Emotional Wellbeing, and much more.
Check with your manager/HR representative to see what’s available to you.