Amber Ojak qualified as a dental therapist in 2018, and now acts as an ambassador for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, where she is also a council member. Like so many other dental professionals, she felt the added personal and professional pressure that grew out of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions imposed as a result. The DDU conducted a survey in the summer of 2020, which found that 68% of dental professionals felt their overall levels of stress and anxiety had increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
Amber was no different. "I can say I'm lucky as I'm now back to work as normal, but the effects of lockdown are hard to cope with," she explains. "I know a lot of colleagues who have not been able to go back to work since March and some have lost their jobs. The BSDHT and BADT have been a great support for our profession but there seems to be less of a public focus on the strain on our profession who have been mentally struggling as well as other health care groups."
Her response, however, was to take a proactive, positive approach - which is why along with her colleague Christie Lawton, she started a small social media movement reassuring fellow dental professionals that "You are not alone."
"I talk to a lot of colleagues every week and noticed that most of them are struggling mentally," says Amber. "It was interesting to realise that I was not alone in this, so together with Christie we started being open about mental health on our social media channels and spread the message that people are not alone in this - that's how the 'You are not alone' campaign was born."
Soon they were able to encourage people to talk about their feelings and share their coping mechanisms. "It's been interesting to see people coming up with all sorts of ideas and new habits they are adopting to face this," Amber continues. "In my case, my daily goal is to walk 10K steps. I'm also painting, drawing and enjoying playing the piano again, which takes my mind away."