Here we will feature fascinating stories about the individuals of SUDSS and their lives. 

This involves EVERYTHING from stories about passions,  journeys, achievements AND inspiring messages to pass on to peers (to name a few). There are no restrictions- we all have something worth listening to.

Hopefully you will take comfort in reading them and leave with a feeling of empowering positivity. Together, we will get to know each other a bit more and build a happy sense of community through support and appreciation!

Emily Moore // 3rd bDs

"I'm just nearing my finish of 3rd BDS during this unknown territory we find ourselves in during the current pandemic. It's my second time getting to this point of 3rd year due to my mental health. I entered March last year as what I thought my 'normal' self and exited it as a completely different person. I would look in the mirror and burst out crying because I thought how can I appear the exact same externally/ present myself with this bubbly facade still, but feel so numb inside. The bits I did like about myself before, like being an approachable and sociable person (i hope) were gone, or at least they felt like they were, when you have this overriding loss of sense of self. The main symptoms I had were low mood in general, no interest in anything I normally would have, no drive/motivation, sleeping excessively, sense of helplessness, increased anxiety and withdrawal and avoidance- not just Uni but from all my family/friends. 

Just because you're going into/in a healthcare profession it doesn't make you any less capable because you have a mental health condition or any less vulnerable to getting one. If anything, the risk is increased (have a read of the BDA 2017 study linked below). There is a stigma in healthcare orientated courses/professions that you're automatically deemed a risk if you have any form of mental health issue. In reality, mental health conditions being so common (1 in 4 within the UK per annum), individuals shouldnt have to face that barrier of accessing support due to worrying that it will affect their professional advancement.

https://bda.org/about-the-bda/campaigns/Documents/The%20Mental%20Health%20and%20Well-being%20of%20UK%20Dentists.pdf

I think the turning point for me was nearly having to take another leave of absence due to my poor attendance, meaning I'd be another year behind at Uni. I knew this wasn’t something I'd want or possibly wouldn't be feasible, so I had to make the decision to change things as best as I could for me and not let the illness control my life/progression. Don't give up because things do get better. I've learned so much in the last year- to be less judgemental, more honest and that I don't need to pretend to be 'fine' when I'm not, as people definitely appreciate the authenticity. I know the personal development I've had in the last year will hopefully benefit me in a career like dentistry and I am grateful for that. I've still got a lot to learn and have to keep progressing through my recovery process, which I'm sure will have its ups and downs. But I'm so glad and proud to still be a part of Sheffield Dental School and ready to continue my journey in 4th BDS. I’ve attached some of the main areas of support in Sheffield or things that I figured out along the way. Ask for help and keep asking- I'm always here so anyone can drop me a message anytime if you want any more info or generally struggling and I'm happy to provide a listening ear. 

- Go and speak to your GP as soon as possible at the UHS 
- Register with the Counselling Service/SAMHS through the Uni website for an initial triage appt
- At the moment book in an appointment with the wellbeing advisor for our department Katie Barron on google calendar
Silvercloud online CBT- ask GP for referral and log on details  
- You can self refer through IAPT (the NHS psychological service in Sheffield) or seek referral through your GP 
- Consider private counselling if it's something that could be feasible and you could access this more quickly (make sure the counsellors accredited through the BACP or something similar) 
- DDSS appt- there is staff in that department with a mental health training background so can provide further support
- Student advice centre at the SU 
- Charities: Email Samaritans 
(jo@samaritans.org) or ring them (116123). Samaritans I think are one of the best organisations in terms of a helpline but there are SO many others: CALM, SANE, Mind, MHF website, Young Minds crisis text service etc 
- Speak to someone you can trust in your academic department or personal tutor 
- Seek support from family and friends or anyone you feel more comfortable with 
- Volunteer or try anything where your focus is on other people
- Mindfulness-apps like headspace" 

Matt cooper // 4th bDs

“Hi, I'm Matt Cooper, currently ending my 4th year of study. Alongside Dentistry, I also travel the world representing Great Britain in Fencing. 

I started fencing at the age of 14 at an after-school club. Since then I've represented GB internationally at Cadet u17s, Junior u20s and Senior level. Now, I currently represent the Senior Great Britain Team and have my goals set on the Olympics in 2024. 

Studying dentistry alongside training can be difficult at times, but I also think it forces me to be organised. It means I cannot leave assignments or studying until the last minute and have to plan how I approach things, which in turn has lead to me being (mostly) quite good at managing my time. Both provide a break from each other; when dentistry gets overwhelming it's great to have another focus in order to take my mind off studying and vice versa. 
Sometimes doing both has been very difficult and I've had some very tired days at uni having returned from international competitions over the weekend. Once having got on a flight in Bahrain at 2am returning to BCS clinics by the afternoon (not recommended). 

Fencing has given me the opportunity to travel to places I would have never considered and it's allowed me to meet the most amazing people along the way. 

A life in dentistry doesn't have to stop you pursuing your goals elsewhere if you are dedicated enough. At times it can even provide a great outlet to a degree which can consume most of your time. 

The Covid-19 outbreak has seen a stop to everyone's lives as we know it. I have tried to take not being able to be in uni as a positive, to take a break from it physically and mentally and to instead use it as an opportunity to focus on my Strength & Conditioning ready for when competitions can continue.” 

kATE BENSON // 2020 GRADUATE

“Even when applying for dentistry, I wasn’t sure it was for me. I didn’t want to do anything else though and it sounded like a good career, so I applied. 

Throughout the whole course I have lacked confidence and it was funny at first. Through clinical skills I would always joke about how bad I was, showing everyone when things went wrong and laughing about it. When I was taken aside during pulpal disease and told tutors were worried about my performance I was upset but still covered it by joking about it. 

Gradually I told myself more and more I couldn’t do Dentistry and by 4th year I believed it, even though I could. It got to the point where I dreaded every single clinic session, I stopped getting out of bed to go to lectures (and if you know me you know I used to go to EVERY lecture without fail) and I started crying on clinic at the thought of doing a filling. Everyone was quite worried about me. 

In 4th year you expect to know what you're doing, and I could see everyone around me getting on with it fine, achieving their targets and getting more and more interested in Dentistry, while I was so far behind. I realised my main problems were stress as a result of the course, and a lack of confidence. 

I almost quit then and changed to a masters because I really wasn’t happy, however I enrolled on a Sheffield IAPT stress management course which gave me strategies to control the stress and anxiety I was experiencing. I would use techniques such as ‘widening the blinkers’ and asking what’s the worst that could happen? It really helped me put it all into perspective and get through it. 

Elective and outreach placements helped with my confidence, and it was then I realised I could do it and how important practice and experience is. I know nobody knows what’s happening with elective and outreach placements next year so I was very lucky to have them. 

I can’t really say all I would want to say in this one post, but I think the main thing is to realise that you wouldn’t have continued this far in the course if you couldn’t do it and to have faith that with practice your confidence will slowly start to increase. It’s really important not to compare yourself to others because it will always seem like they are doing better than you, and sometimes they will be more confident, but a lot of people will be struggling in their own ways too. 

I still don’t really know if it’s for me, but I enjoy it now a lot more now than I used to and am proud to have made it to the end.”

Raina Palit // 3rd bds

“Hi everyone, hope you’re all doing well! As some of you might know, a few weeks ago I started a new dental Instagram and YouTube channel both called ‘RainaOnTheCusp’. I’ve been posting about various dental topics and also created content and videos about tips/advice for applicants on how to get into dental school. This is something I really wanted to start in first year, but never quite felt confident enough then. I had a lot of worries about what people would think and say (and still do to an extent). However, with all the free time recently and a bit of encouragement, I finally decided that now was probably the best time to give it a go.

When I started, I wasn’t all too sure what direction to go in, but I knew my clear aim was to help people and put out valuable, insightful content. Being a dental student for a while now, I felt like I had a lot to share from my personal experiences so I’m really glad I took those next steps. During this process, I’ve been able to give many dental school applicants advice and share the things I have learnt on my journey so far. Not only have I met so many lovely supportive dental students and applicants from all over the country, but I’ve also enjoyed researching and creating informative dental content to educate people about oral health. I’ve had some great opportunities as well, like creating videos for UCAS, collaborating with other dental students on projects and becoming an ambassador for Immersify (a new dental technology app for students).

Using dentistry in a way to help the next generation of dental students has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I know setting up an account isn’t a huge thing to make a fuss about at all, but I’ve learnt a lot about myself along the way, and had to face a lot of doubts and insecurities, especially with seeing myself on camera. I’ve definitely experienced ‘imposter syndrome’ and questioned whether I am really in a position to give someone else advice. However, I realised even if I can reassure, help and uplift just one hopeful applicant out there, then my aim is fulfilled.

If anyone is thinking about starting a dental account, then I’d say GO FOR IT! There are so many avenues you can explore and every account has different aims. The online dental community is a wonderful place, and people will welcome you with open arms. It’s normal to be a little worried but ultimately, you’re doing something meaningful by using your skills and knowledge as a dental student to help and educate people, and that only deserves a positive response.

It’s so nice to see quite a few other accounts pop up during lockdown too! My only regret is not starting sooner so I really want to encourage people who are thinking of putting themselves out there to do it. Social media can be used in a very positive way too! And a big thank you to SUDSS for letting me share my thoughts! “

MONICA Duggal // 2020 GRADUATE

“Throughout lockdown, I, amongst probably a lot of other final years have been able to reflect on the last 5 years and what our abrupt ending to dental school actually means. 

During this transition period between becoming a qualified dentist and starting dental foundation training in September, there is always a lot of anxiety around not feeling ready enough to be treating patients unsupervised. This feeling has definitely been heightened for me knowing starting DFT I will have not done any practical dentistry in about 7/8 months, along with the worry of COVID-19 transmission. 

Over the past 12 weeks I’ve thought a lot about the opportunities provided to me at CCDH and how important it is to be grateful for the experience I have had. Unlike other dental schools, Sheffield have high target quotas to meet and although this is stressful at the time, it most definitely will be advantageous when starting DFT. 

I would say the past 5 years have been very up and down. From a very young age you are expected to act in a professional manner and take on a large amount of responsibility. This poses quite a challenge mentally and so it can be easy to slip into the mindset of not wanting to go to a clinic because you don’t think you’ll benefit from it or booking in a patient for a shorter appointment because you want to leave clinics earlier. I’ll be honest and admit there were several occasions where i would want to leave clinics early, especially during exam season however looking back i know it would have been a greater benefit to make the most of the opportunity to learn (you’re gonna be doing the practical stuff for the rest of your life…). 

Having experienced it all, the highs and the lows of clinical skills labs, clinics and outreach my advice is this: make the most of all the opportunities given to you throughout the time you have left at CCDH. I can imagine some of you are worried about what lies ahead during these uncertain times but the staff will always have your best interests at heart and want you to get through the years as easily as possible. If you want to get involved in research or carry out an audit, speak to the tutors! They’ll be able to point you in the right direction. And when you think things are boring or uninteresting, try to remind yourself of the end goal.

Finally, naturally we are all competitive people, but when it comes to revising for exams and especially for your dental foundation interviews, work together. At the end of the day, even though it might be a competitive process, the best way to improve and do the best you can is to support each other through it.

5 years will fly by and before you know it you’ll be opening your results, sharing that feeling of relief with your family & friends and pinning on that DDU badge. It’s all worth it, I promise!”

AMIE SMITH // 3RD BDS

“My hope for this post is to convey that disabilities, both mental or physical, still mean you should and can be at dental school and taking leave of absence is okay; you aren’t a failure! It may be uncomfortable at times but please don’t believe you no longer belong there! I deliberated pausing uni for 7 ridiculous months before I was completely too unwell to continue. Dental school often feels elitist, but even termed ‘disabled’, you are good enough and shouldn’t question if it’s for you! Perhaps that starts with the competitive application process, but life happens, and sometimes small adjustments can make what feels impossible, possible.

In March 2019, I took leave of absence and I feared that I might not ever be well enough to come back to complete dental school. 

Triggered by glandular fever in March 2018, I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) to varying levels of severity/horizontalness. CFS is a very pants name, for an invisible and often misunderstood condition! The name suggests it’s just tiredness, but it is a systemic neuroimmune condition that can leave people housebound or unable to work and, in my case, go to uni. The fatigue isn’t refreshed by sleep; there is a lot of pain and a whole host of other symptoms, which can be quite debilitating. Statistically, only 5% of sufferers fully recover which is also quite pants and consequently means a lot of people are still missing from their old lives.

I went from being a keen swimmer and triathlon club member to being mostly horizontal and moving back home with my parents to be taken care of. I had a lot to feel very grateful for but I missed sport a lot.

The lack of timeline, uncertainty as to when, and if I would get better and lack of a cure, fuelled a lot of the depression and anxiety that followed. I took antidepressants to target the neuropathic pain and another to target my mood, along with a lot of CBT sessions. I also didn’t look ill, so I found it hard to articulate why I couldn’t join in with others and when people did see me, I had sometimes had 2 days' sleep in preparation. I wanted to mention antidepressants because I found it hard to tell my GP that beyond the CFS, I was struggling with my head. Antidepressants are not for everyone with mental health issues but can be helpful to find balance and shouldn’t be a taboo.

I knew I had to get through 3 more years of full-time education and a foundation year before I could have the flexibility to be part-time if that’s what I needed, which was daunting. Luckily, but slowly, my health did start to pick up following lots of support, acupuncture, trial and error, and a practice called pacing. I was thankfully able to have a phased return into 3rd year having previously completed the first half which was fundamental to being able to come back.

About 2.5 years post glandular fever diagnosis, I still have some struggles, I still take a lot of care planning my energy expenditure and being aware of my limits, but I’m finally feeling mostly like my old self! I am so thankful to be still at dental school and feeling well! I may have recovered forever or this may just be a good patch, only time will tell but I know to even be in this position, I am incredibly fortunate.

A few points/things I’ve learnt - perhaps obvious but I needed reminding! 

- Having a disability, be it temporary or permanent, you still belong, you are capable and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed. 

- You are allowed to feel down, even if things could be worse! Sad is just another emotion!

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is for everyone, I think it would be amazing if one day we could all access mental health services on tap to aid through the little bumps that occur in our lives, as well as the big ones!

- The IAPT service! They run a whole host of courses.

- Let your friends and family help you! You aren’t a burden, they want to help and they love you, which sometimes is all hard to remember when you are low.

- Antidepressants aren’t embarrassing, probably ¼ of your friendship group take/took them for one reason or another.

- Talk to someone at dental school, whoever you feel like you can.

- DDSS (Disability & Dyslexia Support Service) is fab. Go!

- See a student advisor at the SU, about how SFE works after and during Leave of absence.

I have a blog on Instagram called @justalilsleepy if you want to find out a bit more.”