This year, more than any other in recent times, the question “R U OK?” is so important to everyone and knowing what to say when someone says they’re not OK. As a conversation has the potential to change a life.
Maven Dental General Manager, Chris Williams says mental health struggles can affect anyone, in our workplace or in our community, but that he’s working hard to ensure Maven Dental provides a workplace of care and support for all clinicians and team members.
“Checking-in on each other and reaching out for support is at the core of our culture at Maven” Mr Williams said.
You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. By knowing what to say you can help someone feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a really positive difference to their life.
After spending 14 years with the Queensland Police, Chris Williams saw first-hand the effects poor mental health had amongst Police and other emergency service personnel, who dealt with life and death situations on a daily basis.
“We just did not talk about the fact that we might be having a tough time mentally. We dealt with it by turning to alcohol or using humor. If you mentioned feeling a bit stressed by a job or needing some time out, the feeling was that you might be marked as someone with a few mental issues. As a result, we just got on with it” Chris said.
“The reality is many of us were suffering and some of my good mates ended up taking their lives as a result. The thing I learned was that mental health issues affected everyone in some way, and it was often those you least expected that were suffering the most” he said.
Looking back at his career as a Police Officer, Chris highlighted how important it is for a workplace to not sweep problems under the carpet. Mental health is a big issue and yet in days gone by, no one talked about it. Thankfully, things are changing in workplaces across Australia, and “it’s great to see initiatives like R U OK Day that highlight the need to talk about mental health” Chris said.
But how does mental health differ in the health industry?
Chris explains that the environment we work in is high pressure and high stress. Competition is high and pressure comes from many different sources. At the senior leadership level, Maven Dental recognises that the stress and the pressures of the job are present and that it’s not getting any easier.
“Just like the police officers I have worked alongside, Dentists put a lot of pressure on themselves. They are their own harshest critics and they often work long hours and need to put on a mask of confidence when they are in the practice. The reality is that underneath it all could be a person who may be struggling mentally and is unsure of who they can turn to for help. So, there are similarities, however workplaces have changed over the years and it is now much more acceptable to talk about your issues and to reach out if you are struggling” he said.
What does R U OK Day mean for us at Maven Dental? The day itself is a great reminder for all of us that asking for support and checking-in with our work mates is something we should do every day. At Maven, we want to instil support, care and respect into everything we do. We want everyone in the Maven Dental network to feel that they can talk to someone – be it someone they work alongside, their Practice Manager, their Lead Dentist, their Regional Manager, the HR Team or the senior leadership team.
Chris explains that over the years he has taken many calls and had countless conversations with people with the network, wanting to talk about an issue or concern. He says proud to work alongside people who truly care about the welfare of everyone in the Maven networked.
“What I’d say to someone who may be going through a tough time is that it’s OK not to be Ok. Reach out for support – however you feel comfortable doing that. Email, over the phone, in person – whatever it is. We also have our Employee Assistance Program, which is completely anonymous and there is also a Clinician Support program. We don’t mind who you reach out to – whatever works for you” he said.