Talk about a work ethic – this week’s guest redefines the term.
Facebook users may recognise Lauren ‘Sparkle’ Harrhy as the founding member of Mental Dental – a forum set up to support dentists with all aspects of mental health.
But that’s just one of many hats. Lauren tells us all about Mental Dental and her helpline charity Confidential. She lets us in on how her family background has shaped her philanthropic outlook and reveals how her own professional burnout inspired her to help others.
Lauren also tells us about her work within the BDA – and why it’s important to maintain a local outlook.
“I like to be on the go. I like to help. If there’s an opportunity, then I’ll take it. Because I think that if we’ve got the option to help, if we’ve got the ability to help people, then we should.” – Lauren Harrhy
In This Episode
00.59 – Family and backstory
13.08 – Lockdown and being in the thick of it
18.58 – Mental Dental
22.08 – Burnouts and breakdowns
27.45 – Confidential
35.11 – Switching off
37.33 – BDA
46.05 – Cardiff
50.31 – Contributing
54.34 – Lauren’s last day
About Lauren Harrhy
Lauren Harrhy graduated from Cardiff University in 2009 and is now the owner of Sparkle Dental Centre in Pontypool, South Wales.
Lauren has helped to set up and run the Mental Dental Facebook group and Confidential charity helpline – both of which support dental professionals with mental health concerns.
Lauren is vice-chair of the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) Young Dentists Committee and South East Wales representative of the BDA’s General Dentistry Practice Committee (GDPC). She also sits on the Welsh Dental Council.
Lauren Harrhy: When you look at fossils and bones and you look at humans like early Homo sapiens, nearly all Neanderthals and stuff, the things that set us apart and make us human is because we care for those who need help.
Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. A podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi & Prav Solanki.
Payman Langroud…: It gives me great pleasure to welcome Lauren Sparkle to the podcast. Lauren’s one of the list of wonderful ladies that we’ve had who seem to be able to juggle family life, practise ownership, and a bunch of other things. Lauren started the Mental Dental Group For Dentists In Crisis and has a bunch of BDA roles. Welcome to the show, Lauren.
Lauren Harrhy: Hi. Thanks for having me on.
Payman Langroud…: Absolute pleasure. Lauren, let’s just start with the backstory. Where did you grow up? Why did you become a dentist?
Lauren Harrhy: I grew up in the South Wales Valleys. I’m the first person in my family to go to uni. I suppose when I was growing up I was quite interested in sciences but also art. Then when I was doing my A-levels, I fell in with probably the wrong crowd who encouraged me to get into dentistry. I thought that it was a perfect mix of art and science. Enabled me to be able to chat to people. I had originally thought about doing genetic engineering or something lab-based.
Payman Langroud…: Were you like a brain box in school?
Lauren Harrhy: Kind of. Oh, God.
Payman Langroud…: What do your parents do?
Lauren Harrhy: As I was growing up, my dad had a loft conversion business. Then latterly then he sold that and opened a load of nursing homes for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Yeah. He did that in response to the fact that my younger brother has several learning impairments and is on the autistic spectrum. As he was growing up, we were looking at if we needed it, what would we do for respite care? Or should the worst happen, where could he go?
Lauren Harrhy: We didn’t find anywhere that was satisfactory. Nowhere that we felt would be suitable for him to live. Dad decided to start a business to be able to fill that gap, really, for people who wanted their loved ones to go and live somewhere that really felt like a home and a family. He’s got several of these small nursing homes which of an excellent standard. Yeah. That’s what dad does.
Lauren Harrhy: My Mum, she passed away a couple of years ago. She was a director of a charity. She advised the Welsh Assembly on quite a lot of issues surrounding people who have learning disabilities and also speech and language impairment. Yeah. She was a really, really clever lady. They had me too young. Yeah. My mother was just 18 and my dad was just 20 when I came along.
Payman Langroud…: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. They didn’t really have the opportunity to go to uni because they started a family really young. They all said, “Don’t do it backwards. Make sure you go and get your degree and put everything in place before you start having a family and just making life harder.”
Payman Langroud…: You studied in Cardiff?
Lauren Harrhy: I did.
Payman Langroud…: Best dental school in the world?
Lauren Harrhy: It is.
Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah.
Lauren Harrhy: Swimming pool and all. Yeah. I didn’t want to move too far away. My parents had recently divorced. My mother was having a bit of a tough time. I’m really, really close with my younger brother. I wanted to stay a little bit closer so I could nip home on weekends a little bit easier. Or if there were any major disasters, I could be home in half an hour or so. I just wanted to stay a little bit closer really, to be around.
Lauren Harrhy: It suited me well. Because I’ve managed to keep my group of friends that I was in school with. I still see them regularly. I’ve managed to stay really close to my grandparents. Which has really, really helped since my mother passed away. Because we were extremely close. We were best friends. When she passed away, it’s been really, really important to have my grandparents around. Because we’ve all just supported each other, really.
Prav Solanki: Lauren, tell us a little bit more about your brother. You mentioned obviously he’s got a few issues and disabilities as growing up. I just want to learn a little bit more about how that manifested itself in day-to-day life.
Prav Solanki: You mentioned that you wanted to stay close because you’re close to him and perhaps if something happened you could rush back or whatever. That you may need some respite where he could go and spend some time and whatnot. Just paint the picture of what the reality was day-to-day in that situation.
Lauren Harrhy: Well, when he was young, very young, we started noticing that Tom was a little bit different when he was about two. Which is around about the time when you have the MMR vaccine. This is where the link between autism and MMR really was… We all know the tenuous link and the awful destruction that’s been brought by that ridiculous link that… Is that Andrew Waterman connected? This is the age where if you have autism spectrum disorder, you start to display differences.
Lauren Harrhy: Tom was just… Well, we used to call him the Tom Moilian devil because our last name is Moil. He used to just act like Taz. He’d be really, he couldn’t talk very well. He was super just frustrated and aggressive. Would headbutt the walls and headbutt the radiator taps. Would pull… My hair was just out in clumps all the time. He was in his own private little world.
Prav Solanki: What’s the age gap? What’s the age gap between you two?
Lauren Harrhy: It was just under four years between us. My parents, they were young. Very young. They were 22 when Tom came along. My mother had some… She’d had two very, very awful births. We nearly lost her. Certainly the second time. Tom was really, really difficult for the first few years.
Lauren Harrhy: Then we discovered Patrick [Corman] sign language. Which enabled us to open his speech out. He’s skyrocketed ever since because he’s really, really clever. Yeah. His speech, if you were to talk to him now, you can still tell that there’s a speech and language issue.
Lauren Harrhy: As time’s gone on, he’s grown up into this wonderful, caring, clever man. He’s got a job. He drives. He’s into martial arts. He’s just working towards his fourth [dam 00:08:07]-
Prav Solanki: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: … in boxing. He’s black belt in karate and the sword fighting and all that sort of thing. The social issues are still there. He doesn’t really know how to hold conversations particularly well. He can manage around the family and things. Just about manage at work and stuff. He’s unfortunately never managed to find a partner.
Lauren Harrhy: He’s doing his thing. He’s doing actually much better than we ever thought he would at two or three. He’s made us all really, really proud. His whole world just imploded when my mother passed away because she was his everything. His rock. She would speak for him when he was struggling and organised his whole life. He can’t manage money at all. He would go to a shop and pay 15 quid for a pack of chewing gums if that’s what they asked.
Lauren Harrhy: In those ways he is vulnerable. Yeah. He’s come on leaps and bounds. As a kid, it was difficult. He had some health problems as well, just to go along with it. When he was about nine, we noticed he had a rash. We were worrying because we thought it looked like meningitis. We did the glass test. The rash wasn’t blemishing.
Lauren Harrhy: Rushed him straight to the GP. No meningitis. Couldn’t figure out what it was for ages. It was HSP. Which then affected his kidneys. The treatment for HSP left him with two pulmonary emboli. Four centimetres and four and a half centimetres in size. Huge.
Lauren Harrhy: In fact, I think there’s been a paper written about him by the registrar who treated him. Because they hadn’t seen that in a child before. They decided to inject [inaudible] directly into his heart. To see if they could break this clot up. They did, thankfully. He came through it. He came through the other side. He spent a year in hospital being treated. It’s been a bit of a rough ride with him. Bless him.
Payman Langroud…: Now that your mother’s unfortunately passed away, are you taking up that mantel a little bit?
Lauren Harrhy: Yes. Yeah. My dad’s lived in a granny flat since my mother’s passed away. Because he did try and stay in the house with my mother’s husband for about two years. They didn’t get along. We decided it was better for him to come and live near us. My dad just lives around the corner from me actually.
Lauren Harrhy: We live in the middle of nowhere. I’ve got one house in the middle of nowhere. My dad’s got the other house in the middle of nowhere. My dad’s lived in a granny flat which is actually a really nice flat above my dad’s garage.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. He comes to see me every day. We talk about anything he’s got going on. I bought him a budgie for his birthday. Which is keeping him busy. It was my birthday yesterday. He sent me a card and he signed it from him and the bird.
Payman Langroud…: Lovely.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. It’s keeping him busy and keeping him company. Because it’s been difficult through COVID. See some, obviously where he had HSP and it’s completely ravaged his kidneys. He’s not on dialysis. We’d like to keep him that way.
Lauren Harrhy: He’s only got about 30% of his kidneys functioning. Yeah. We decided throughout COVID that he needed to self-isolate. Looking at the fact that COVID seems to be affecting people with kidney issues more. With the cases rising, we’ll probably need to have this discussion again, really.
Lauren Harrhy: He works for a CO-OP. They were absolutely amazing. They followed him 100%. They’ve really looked after him and taken care of him and checked that he was ready to come back to work and things. They’ve made work really safe for him as well. We’ve been really pleased and grateful about that. Everyone’s for CO-OP because they’re a great company.
Prav Solanki: What’s the dynamic of lockdown been like for you guys with obviously your brother self-isolating? We’ve spoken to loads of people who have got various silver linings of lockdown in terms of what happened. How we’re getting to spend more time with the family away from… Obviously you’ve got your own business as well. You have those stresses as well. Can you just summarise what happened for yourself?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. Well, at the beginning it was very frantic. Because obviously we were concerned about patients. Concerned about closing down and halting treatment and things like that. I’ve got quite a lot of older patients. We’re in quite a deprived socioeconomic area.
Lauren Harrhy: I was really, really concerned because I’ve got lots and lots of patients with quite extensive medical histories. I was really concerned we were going to lose a lot of patients. Also the staff were fearful. I was fearful. We didn’t know really what to expect. Add to that, the fact that I do hold several BDA roles.
Lauren Harrhy: Frantically trying to figure out what to advise members as well. Yeah. I think the first six weeks or so I was averaging about four, five hours sleep a night. Just trying to keep on top of meetings. It was constant concern WhatsApp messages flying around and things.
Payman Langroud…: Lauren, you’ve got your practise. You’ve got your kids. How many kids have you got?
Lauren Harrhy: Three.
Payman Langroud…: Three kids. You’ve got your brother and your dad. Now, you’ve got Mental Dental. Now you’ve got all these BDA roles. Are you the type of person who just says yes to everything and then works it out later? Or do you love being in the middle of it? Do you know what I mean? It’s a lot to do.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. We’ve got Confidental as well.
Payman Langroud…: Confidental as well. Yeah. We’re getting to that.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. My dad at my wedding, when my dad gave his speech, he called me perpetual motion. I think that probably is right. I like to be on the go. I like to help. If there’s an opportunity, then I’ll take it. Because I think that if we’ve got the option to help, if we’ve got the ability to help people, then we should. Yeah. If there’s an opportunity to help, then I will.
Prav Solanki: Lauren, how do you squeeze it all in? What’s a day or a week in the life of your activities like? With running the practise and-
Payman Langroud…: Just run us through your day.
Prav Solanki: … looking after your brother. Then running all of these organisations and WhatsApp messages and stuff like that. What’s it like for you typical day, typical week?
Lauren Harrhy: I will wake up at half 6:00, 7:00. Just immediately check my phone. As unhealthy as that is. I’ll immediately check my phone. Scroll through messages. Reply to anything that has come while I’ve been asleep.
Prav Solanki: While you’re in bed?
Lauren Harrhy: Pardon?
Prav Solanki: While you’re in bed?
Lauren Harrhy: While lying in bed.
Prav Solanki: While in bed. Yeah.
Lauren Harrhy: It’s [inaudible] when I open. Scrolling through. I’ll reply to any immediate messages. Then get up. Get my kids up. Ready for school, nursery. Sort the dog out. Sort the cats out. Sort the chickens and the ducks out. I’ll get the girls on to their school bus. Sonny comes with me because he goes to nursery just opposite the practise.
Payman Langroud…: How old are they?
Lauren Harrhy: Brooke is nine. Grace is six. Sonny is three.
Payman Langroud…: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. I’ve managed to evenly space them out. My husband was joking a little while ago, he was like, “Oh, come on now. It’s time for the next one.” They will lead the more. We’re done at three. We’re both really tired all the time.
Lauren Harrhy: Sonny still tries to come into bed with us every night. Yeah. This is the reason I’ve got so much time. It’s because Sonny actually has never slept very well. I’m usually up so I can manage a lot from my phone. That’s what happens.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. On a typical day, non-COVID, I’ll go in and see patients and reply to messages lunchtimes. Then usually zip from the practise to get Sonny to get home. Get tea on. Sort kids out. That sort of thing. Then in between times I’ll be replying to messages, doing emails and that sort of thing. Yeah. If.
Payman Langroud…: Is it a mixed practise?
Lauren Harrhy: It’s a mixed practise, yeah. We’re about 80% NHS. Obviously we’ve been really, really fortunate to get some NHS funding. In Wales, we’ve had 80% of our contract value at initially. We’ve just recently gone up to 90%. That has been helpful.
Lauren Harrhy: Obviously, the private side has died off, really. Because the priority has been NHS patients. Because we’re still restricted about what we can do. We’ve really just tried to focus on getting everybody healthy. A lot of the private stuff I was doing was aesthetic. I got a small amount of Denplan patients who I’ve been looking after as well. We’ve just mainly been focusing on keeping everybody healthy through this time.
Payman Langroud…: How many rooms is it? How many dentists is it in the practise?
Lauren Harrhy: We were two surgeries. Then this year, I was appointed as an FD trainer. I just put in a third surgery.
Payman Langroud…: Oh, my goodness. You are busy, aren’t you? Tell us about Mental Dental. How did it come about? First of all, for someone who doesn’t know, what is it?
Lauren Harrhy: Mental Dental is a Facebook forum for UK dentists. We’ve allowed a couple of Irish dentists to join. Because there wasn’t something similar for Irish dentists. We thought that we would still have some crossover between our problems. It’s mostly UK dentists. We have close to 6,000 members now. It was started really as a support group.
Lauren Harrhy: I mentioned earlier that my mother was the director of a charity when she was alive. She worked her way up to become the director of that charity but initially was just a volunteer. She used to help to run support groups for people whose children had speech and language problems.
Lauren Harrhy: I remember that the support groups were super useful. Because it meant that people with the same issues and the same problems and the same fears could come together and share them and get advice and support. Just hints and tips without judgement . Because everyone was going through the same thing.
Lauren Harrhy: I thought we’re really, really isolated as dentists. We all say it all the time. We’re really isolated as dentists. It’s slightly better if you work in a practise with more dentists but not always. Because you don’t always feel that you can talk to your colleagues. Some people are very private.
Lauren Harrhy: I just thought that a Facebook forum would give that space quite nicely to dentists who are all over the country. I’d seen on some other forums that people were really suffering. Burnout is something that is really prevalent in dentistry. I’ve suffered from it myself. I had a breakdown in 2015 myself. I just didn’t want anyone to have to face that alone anymore. I just wanted to make a space where we could come together and we could help each other.
Payman Langroud…: When you went through it yourself, did you find there was no one to talk to?
Lauren Harrhy: I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Payman Langroud…: You didn’t want to?
Lauren Harrhy: This was the problem. Is that I had hidden this part of myself for so long that nobody had any idea that I was suffering. No idea at all. Until it all completely fell apart. It was manifesting even physically. Because I spent about two weeks with just… I was just shaking and vomiting and could barely move. It was really, really… It had affected me not just mentally but physically also.
Prav Solanki: Lauren, on the outside, if I knew you passing by and all the rest of it, I wouldn’t have a clue?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: I’d be blind to this. Something was going on inside. You exploded and it all fell apart. Would you mind just sharing what it was and what led to that, if you’re comfortable doing so obviously? Then perhaps just sharing, not necessarily mentioning names, the typical things that you see in your group that perhaps somebody listening to this is experiencing similar problems would feel comfortable reaching out and knowing that there’s help?
Lauren Harrhy: Okay. Well, for me I think it was a combination of things. It’s never just one thing in isolation that causes us these issues. I mentioned that there were problems in my childhood with my brother. My parents had a really tumultuous marriage.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. For me, I felt it was better when they split. It had been 17 years of lots and lots and lots of arguments. Growing uncertainty. Also when I was about 14, my mother had been attacked by a Rottweiler and a Bullmastiff. She was left for dead.
Prav Solanki: Oh, God.
Lauren Harrhy: Suffered horrendous PTSD afterwards. Which she didn’t feel able to get help for that. Instead of doing what these days people would… They would just automatically probably go on to meds and get help. She just didn’t want to do that. She was still in the mindset that she could cope with this herself.
Lauren Harrhy: She started drinking instead. Was self-medicating with alcohol. That was always a worry. It was really tough to see somebody go from being so bright and vivacious and loved and kind, to somebody who was less than that. Yeah. I think that stuff contributes. Then you go into a profession which is high pressure. You want to do the best for your patients. You want to do the best job you possibly can.
Lauren Harrhy: I think that in that first few years at dental school, initially you think, “Oh, yeah. I can do this.” Then you start. Your mistakes start coming back. Your failures start popping up. You realise that you’re not as good as you thought you were. You realise that there’s a lot of learning to do.
Lauren Harrhy: I was feeling just that I was failing at everything. I think I had been suffering from some postnatal depression also. I think it was just all a bit of a perfect storm. Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: How did you get out of it?
Lauren Harrhy: Well, I eventually went to the GP. I see a private GP in Cardiff. Dr. Longstaffe. She put me in for 20 minute consultations. Spent an hour and a half with me. She’s amazing. She just broke it all down and said, “Look, we need to just get you on some meds.” She started me off on [Stelaprom 00:25:49]. I was on Stelaprom for about three months. Which just helped me clear everything. Helped me think clearly again.
Lauren Harrhy: I came off work for a month or so while I was feeling poorly. Then after that, I was feeling well enough to go back to work and to see patients and everything again. Then, I think just now I know my triggers. I know what it feels when I’m starting to feel it’s all going downhill. I’ve never, ever got to that state again. Now I know what to do to help myself if I’m feeling low. No, I’ve-
Payman Langroud…: When you hear the stories of dentists who come to you, you do these anonymous posts.
Lauren Harrhy: Yes.
Payman Langroud…: How does that work? The dentist literally reaches out to you. You know who they are, but we don’t.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Do you find there’s lots of parallels to what you were going through with them?
Lauren Harrhy: [crosstalk 00:26:46].
Payman Langroud…: Who do you hear the most? It’s funny because it’s a bit difficult. I used to read every single post on Mental Dental back when you started. Because I used to find it fascinating and interesting. It felt so authentic compared to everything else on social media. Now, I feel there’s so much more anxiety out there than I realised.
Lauren Harrhy: Yes.
Payman Langroud…: It’s almost like, well, I’ve read this before. I’ve read… It’s a much, much bigger issue than you might imagine.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. [inaudible] actually. I think that lots of us don’t know where to go to access help. There are avenues these days. There were few avenues. These days there are many more avenues to go down for help. We’ve always had the Dentists’ Health Support Trust. They are amazing.
Lauren Harrhy: They were initially set up to deal with addiction. They can now help those suffering with their mental health in general. In England, there’s the Practitioner Health programme. We’ve got something similar now in Wales. Also there’s BDA Health Assured and Confidental. Quick plug for Confidental. We’re a helpline if you ask [inaudible 00:28:12].
Payman Langroud…: How did it come about and how do you run it? Confidental.
Lauren Harrhy: Well, Confidental, well, when I started Mental Dental, I always wanted it to be a helpline. Because I thought that the forum was great and it does have its place. Sometimes you do feel you need to speak to someone one-on-one. I just had no idea how to go about it. No idea how to get it off the ground.
Lauren Harrhy: Then about two years ago, Jeremy Cooper put a post out saying that he’d been really affected by a suicide in his area. A dentist. He said that enough is enough. We need to help each other. Somebody connected us. Jeremy was absolutely tenacious.
Lauren Harrhy: He’s gone and found sponsors. Found all the right people to come together to get his project off the ground. It’s actually fairly… The system is simple to use. We use a phone company which allows us to have three people in a cascade at any one time. We’ve trained some volunteers who can take calls. It’s dentists who recently retired. Dentists that are taking our calls.
Lauren Harrhy: We would like more volunteers. Because it’s quite at the moment, the shift pattern is a bit onerous. Just you have to be on for seven days or seven nights, depending on what shift you do. It doesn’t mean that you’re on the phone constantly for all that time. Sometimes you won’t get a call at all. Then other times you might get three calls in a shift.
Lauren Harrhy: Obviously, these calls are not quick calls. Generally, you need to be on the phone for some time. It’s a bit of a commitment when you’re on a call or when you’re on a shift. We’ve had, I think somewhere… Keith Hayes, who is one of the trustees and one of the founding members, he keeps a log of the calls. Not who’s calling, but how many. Keith would be able to tell us a bit more. I think we’ve had over about 400 calls since we started and-
Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:30:29].
Lauren Harrhy: … it was fully launched. We launched just… It was the 27th of May 2019. We did a soft launch until we knew that we would be able to deal with the call volume coming through. Yeah. It’s been an amazingly inspiring project to be part of.
Lauren Harrhy: We’ve recently registered as a charity. Keith put an awful lot of work into getting us registered with the Charity Commission. Now we’re just looking for sponsors. We’re looking at whether or not we can extend this help to other members of professions. Dentists and therapists and things like that. We’re just about to survey… Sorry. Hygienists and therapists. Just about to survey hygienists and therapists to see if they think that they would also benefit from a phone line like this.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah. I don’t know. On that hygiene forum, there’s plenty of pain going on there. Plenty of problems. You need volunteers. You need sponsors.
Lauren Harrhy: Yes.
Payman Langroud…: Is that it? How else if someone wants to contribute?
Lauren Harrhy: Well, we could take donations. We’ve had donations from a couple of LDCs. People are more than welcome to donate as well. It doesn’t actually cost an awful lot to run the phone line. It just cost quite a lot to train the volunteers. That’s where the money goes at the moment. The phone line cost is very little. The training is very expensive.
Payman Langroud…: Let’s say I want to volunteer, what’s the process? How long does it take to train? Then-
Lauren Harrhy: Initially we would ask you to make contact. Then we would put you on the waiting list for the next time we’ve got training available. Training usually takes place over two days. We have various different training providers. Invariably we will have training about how to handle calls and personality types and things like that.
Lauren Harrhy: Then we will usually have some training on mental health and suicide prevention. Yeah. It’s quite an intense two days. Then we look at doing top of training and things like that. We haven’t been running that long. Most of the volunteers are pretty fresh. Yeah. The plan is that we’ll do to up training. A bit like CPD [inaudible 00:33:07].
Lauren Harrhy: Prior to COVID, these two days were face-to-face. We did have a cohort of volunteers because [inaudible] were going there. We needed people on day route. We did train a cohort of volunteers earlier this year so that we could get more people on the day route through COVID.
Payman Langroud…: Lauren, you just mentioned suicide prevention there as this part of the training. Is that something that comes up quite a lot as part of the types of calls that are received in terms of different, the range of calls? Is that quite a common thing?
Lauren Harrhy: Thankfully not.
Payman Langroud…: No? Okay.
Lauren Harrhy: Thankfully not. A lot of the time, it’s similar stuff to what we see on Mental Dental. There was dispute within a practise, bullying, harassment, concerns about patient complaints, concerns about GDC hearings. Or just general life stuff, really. Personal problems and things like that.
Lauren Harrhy: We are there if somebody is feeling that they are feeling suicidal. Then we are there to take those calls. Generally somebody is at risk of suicide for about 20 minutes. If you can keep them going during that 20 minutes, you can often change their minds.
Payman Langroud…: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: Persistently changing somebody’s mind. They might feel suicidal today but not tomorrow. Then they might feel suicidal again in a few months time. It’s hoping that you can always catch somebody and make them realise that they are worth something and that life is worth living and things will change.
Prav Solanki: It’s clear to me from right at the beginning with your dad wanting to set the homes to help people and you’ve been brought in this environment helping, helping, helping. Your practise is predominantly NHS and you’re looking to help people who need the care.
Prav Solanki: Just in terms of the problems that you see and listen to all the time, do you ever get to switch off from those problems of helping all these people or listening to the doom and gloom and everything? Then when you get home, we didn’t really get to the end of your day when you come home from the practise and whatnot. What does that end of your day look like? Do you have strategies for switching off? Or do you want to?
Lauren Harrhy: Do you know what? I do find it difficult to switch off. My husband’s really good at chatting things through with me. He’s really, really supportive. Sometimes if I get myself down a rabbit hole, he’ll pull me up back out. Yeah. I don’t drink very much. Deliberately. Because I think that could send me down the wrong path. Particularly when I’m feeling stressed.
Lauren Harrhy: I do things like walk the dog. Or just, well, no. I don’t know how I switch off really fast. I don’t switch off enough. Yeah. I got the dog. I got the cats and the chickens and the ducks. They keep me busy in a different way. That’s probably how I get away from thinking too much.
Prav Solanki: Does that phone ever go away? You mentioned that you wake up in the morning and you’re flicking through messages in bed. Then are you doing that last thing at night before you go to bed or is there a point where-
Lauren Harrhy: Oh, yeah.
Prav Solanki: …. you actually [inaudible 00:36:51]?
Lauren Harrhy: Often during the night when the littlest one wakes me up during the night as well. No.
Prav Solanki: You don’t switch off?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. It’s probably quite unhealthy. I do try to set it aside and I keep an eye on my screen in time. I’ve stopped using the phone so much for just stupid things now. I tend to be on the phone if I need to support somebody or to do my emails or whatever. I’m trying to keep my screen time down as much as possible. Yeah. The phone is glued to me most of the time.
Payman Langroud…: Tell us about your BDA role. The BDA has had a bad rep from a lot of people. You seem to be getting more involved in it. Sum it up for us.
Lauren Harrhy: A couple of years ago, around about time I was starting Mental Dental, I decided that… I could see that there were problems in the profession. Then as we talked about… I do like helping. I just thought that it’s not good sitting around and whinging about problems unless you’re willing to go out and do something about them.
Lauren Harrhy: I’ve always been a BD member since I was a student. I just thought that I could help to enact change. I could help to make working conditions better for dentists. I stood for a couple of positions. Now I’m the Vice Chair of the Young Dentist Committee. Which I’m probably getting a bit too old for now. They’ll probably kick me off soon.
Lauren Harrhy: I’m the Vice Chair of the Welsh General Practise Committee. I also sit on the UK General Practise Committee [inaudible] Council. All these roles give me a good insight into what’s happening in dentistry and the problems that arise. It’s not just NHS dentistry. Although until COVID, NHS dentistry was probably more of a focus because there was more going on.
Lauren Harrhy: Obviously since COVID, we’ve seen the private dentists have really, really needed support. Yeah. The BDA, I think because it is a big organisation, it often draws focus for negativity. I’ve seen this. I think we get lumped in sometimes by some people. We get lumped in with the GDC and the NHS. We just seem lumped in. We are actually the union for dentists.
Payman Langroud…: It does seem very focused on NHS though, isn’t it?
Lauren Harrhy: I think it has been. Purely because, I think prior to COVID, what did private dentists need us for?
Payman Langroud…: Well, lots of things. Private dentist have many issues, don’t they?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. We’ve been there. We have looked at… We’ve been there for all dentists. I think that certain parts of the BDA is being very NHS focused. Necessarily so. Yeah. We’ve got the private practise group that’s been set up. Which I think has been welcomed and needed, really.
Lauren Harrhy: I know that BAPD is doing excellent work as well. We’ve been collaborating with them. Because I’m not on the private practise group. I stood in on that meeting a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. I think that it’s about time we all put our heads together really to just [inaudible 00:40:48].
Payman Langroud…: Now you’re going for the [PECK] as well?
Lauren Harrhy: Yes, I am. Well, I stood twice previously. Was narrowly edged out by Tony [Kokoi] last year. Yeah. I’m standing again. The Welsh seat is a… I’m not standing against Tim Harker because I think Tim does an excellent job. I’d like to be on the PECK alongside him rather than instead of him. I’m going to be standing for the UK seat.
Payman Langroud…: I just can’t get my head around the number of things you’re doing. It’s a lot of things. You just came out with four or five different committees that you’re… Each of these takes time.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. They do. They [inaudible] other. A lot of the papers and things overlap. It’s good to be a conduit between those committees.
Payman Langroud…: It’s the theme that we’re seeing with some of our lady guests. Linda Greenwall and Vicki Holden. I’m thinking of even Zainab. It’s almost like that famous cliche about, if you’ve got something to give to someone, give it to a busy person or whatever it is. I take my hat off to you.
Payman Langroud…: [inaudible] so much. Do you feel your practise suffers? If let’s imagine you didn’t have all of this and you focused all that energy on practise life, do you feel you’d have a different practise or more practises or whatever it is?
Lauren Harrhy: Might have more practises. No. My practise is, I got a really, really good team. I call them team Sparkle. I’m actually Lauren Harrhy. I put Sparkle in my professional profile on Facebook.
Payman Langroud…: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Lauren Harrhy: That’s all right.
Payman Langroud…: I thought it was part of your name.
Lauren Harrhy: It was just because I’ve got two Facebook profiles. One is my personal one and the other is my dental one. Because I just didn’t want to be spamming all my friends and family with dental stuff all the time. Yeah. I call my team, team Sparkle.
Lauren Harrhy: I’ve got some excellent associates. My practise manager is great and all my nurses are fab. Yeah. The practise is good and runs well. Perhaps we would have more practises. I look at my friends who’ve got more than one practise and it puts me off a little bit. It seems super hard work.
Lauren Harrhy: I know that sounds crazy to say. Because I’m doing a lot of that. It seems hard work in a different way. The pressure is different, I think. Yeah. I think maybe one day I could channel some more energy into another practise. At the moment, I don’t want to spread myself too thin for patients. I still work full time. Clinically I’m still full time.
Prav Solanki: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: I love my patients. I don’t want it to sound tripe but I really do. I’ve been treating these patients for six years. I know them all really well. I know about their families. I know about their lives. For me, I would feel I was being a bit disloyal spreading myself around a lot of different practises.
Payman Langroud…: Did you grow up in the same town in [inaudible 00:44:25]?
Lauren Harrhy: Well, a couple of times over. Yeah. They’re all the people that I grew up with. Yeah. We’ll get on and we understand each other well and all the rest of it. No. That’s not to say that my friends and colleagues who’ve got [inaudible] one practise are doing that. It’s just for me, I just would feel I was spreading myself a bit too thin.
Lauren Harrhy: I want to be with these guys all the time. I really do. I look forward to seeing my patients. I look at my day list every day and see the names that I recognise. All of us have a couple of patients that give us a bit heart sync. Most of them, I look forward to seeing them. Yeah. I suppose if I had another practise, I would feel like that about the new cohort of patients eventually. I’m just not ready for it yet.
Payman Langroud…: I think we break down dentists into the type like you listen to the people. Then there’s the other type who are into the [mechano 00:45:26]. The fitting bits together type. Of course, there’s some crossover. I’m sure you’re one of those too.
Payman Langroud…: For someone like me, I gave up dentistry 10 years ago. Certainly, that element of it I do miss. I miss people. It was never my own practise in the town I grew up. Having spent six, seven years in Wales myself, I know exactly what you mean about the communities. It is somehow more of a community than we’re used to down here anyway. I’m sure up there Prav, you’ve got some-
Prav Solanki: Of course we have Pay. The best people in Manchester mate.
Payman Langroud…: No. The Wales are amazing.
Prav Solanki: [crosstalk 00:46:05].
Payman Langroud…: They really are amazing. I spent some time in the Valleys after heavy nights in Cardiff as well. Tell us about your Cardiff experience. Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy being a dental student? Or did you find it hard or?
Lauren Harrhy: Well, for me-
Payman Langroud…: Which years were you there?
Lauren Harrhy: I qualified in 2009.
Payman Langroud…: Oh, it’s way of [crosstalk 00:46:27].
Lauren Harrhy: 2004 to 2009. Yeah. I did enjoy being a dentist student. I met my husband in the first year. He’s not a dentist. He’s a firefighter. I met him in the first year. I had quite a separate life.
Prav Solanki: How did you meet?
Lauren Harrhy: On my out. In [inaudible 00:46:50]. Which is not there anymore. I don’t think. Yeah. We just met on a night out. Stuck together. Yeah. 15, 16 years later we’re still going. Yeah. This is how a lot of the time he keeps me sane. Because he’s got a different perspective. We can talk about firefighter stuff, not dentist stuff and things like that. I bought my first house when I was 20.
Prav Solanki: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: We lived in [Pamprani] which is just out of Cardiff a little bit.
Payman Langroud…: Was it in dental school you bought your first house?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. I was 20 nearly 21. That would put me in second, third year. Then got married six weeks after I qualified.
Payman Langroud…: Wow.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. We started having kids pretty young as well. I had Brooke when I was 25. Between having number one and number two, we knocked the house down and built another one. We lived in a caravan for a little while. Although I did enjoy dental school, I wasn’t… Well, the first year I was. The other years I wasn’t out every night or anything. I was settling already. That’s why I didn’t want to go too far for [VT] or I wanted to stay in Wales because I needed life.
Prav Solanki: The way you need, did you have a mixture of friends of obviously your dental colleagues and then… Because I had a similar situation when I was at uni. Not because I met my wife there or anything. Part of the time I’d be hanging out with what they referred to as the townies. The other part of the time I’d be hanging out with my uni mates. Was it similar for you?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. I had a group of really lovely friends in uni. We tossed house parties and we [inaudible 00:49:01]. Things like that. Yeah. I would still like to spend time with my family and my friends from home. Also my friends that I met through my husband as well.
Prav Solanki: [inaudible 00:49:12].
Lauren Harrhy: His friends. Yeah. I had a good mix. We were always busy. Yeah. It was a mix between uni friends and home friends. It’s good. It keeps you balanced.
Prav Solanki: I think it is good. I think it just keeps you grounded always. In fact, when I was at uni, I felt I was in a bit of a bubble. I came out of that bubble when I hung out with my local friends, if that made sense. Who weren’t at uni. Weren’t necessarily as educated. Thought it just… It kept everything nice and bubbly [crosstalk 00:49:44].
Payman Langroud…: Were these your bodybuilder buddies?
Prav Solanki: Yeah. I met them in this bodybuilding gym that I joined. That I got thoroughly addicted to and met some really, really good friends for life. I’ve probably got six, seven friends that I would consider to be real friends who would jump if I needed them. Two of them are from the people who I met in that gym. Still till today.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. If I was looking at my uni days, I might be going out on a Friday and a Saturday. Friday might be with the townies, as the students would refer to them as. Then the others would be with my uni mates. It was nice to have that mix. [inaudible 00:50:29].
Payman Langroud…: I’m hearing from you that every single thing you say in the end for me comes out as contribution, contribution, contribution. You’re constantly contributing. Then we’ve had all sorts of people on this show. We’ve got the other type who constantly… It’s wrong to say taking. You’ll forgive me, I’m not saying that.
Payman Langroud…: This level of contribution that you seem to be onto, would you put that down to your parents? Is that it? Were you that kid who used to always try to help people as a kid? What made you Lauren?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. I think we’re all shaped by our experiences, aren’t we?
Payman Langroud…: Yeah.
Lauren Harrhy: And the people that come in and out of our lives. Yeah. I think my parents, my grandparents as well, really just taught me that, as I said earlier, you should help where you can. It’s good to help people because not everybody’s in the position to help someone and not everybody’s in a fortunate position. They desperately need help from the Valleys. It’s a big labour area. It’s all a bit socialist.
Lauren Harrhy: Perhaps that where that then comes from a little bit. I just think it’s important to be kind. I think it’s, I couldn’t stand the thought of somebody really struggling and having nobody to lean on. Because I’m really fortunate that with all the issues that have happened over the years, I still always have that call of family and friends that were there. That cared for me.
Lauren Harrhy: I just would hate to feel that there’s somebody out there who felt they didn’t have anybody. That would absolutely break my heart. If somebody feels that they’ve got nobody, then maybe they could feel they’ve got me.
Prav Solanki: It’s incredibly admirable what you’ve just said there. I work with a lot of practise owners. A lot of people are a 100% business-focused. Or ambition-focused. Or clinically they want to be the best and do all this postgraduate education. Blah, blah, blah. All the rest of it.
Prav Solanki: Whereas what’s very, very, very clear from what you’re saying is a big part of your driver is, just about being there for people who need help. Well, it feels as though if there is someone out there who does need help but doesn’t get it, it upsets you?
Lauren Harrhy: Yes, it does. Because, I think as human beings, we’re social animals.
Prav Solanki: [inaudible 00:53:16].
Lauren Harrhy: If look right back into history, we’ve always been tribal. Part of what makes us human is caring for others. When you look at fossils and bones and you look at humans like early Homo sapiens, nearly all the Neanderthals and stuff, the things that set us apart and make us human is because we care for those who need help.
Lauren Harrhy: In anthropology, you can see that with these early humans, they’d see that somebody had a really awful fracture that would have resulted in them not being mobile. The fractures healed and they continued to live a life after that. That’s because the tribe has gathered around and helped them. Well, really that is what makes us human. That’s what we should be nurturing and continuing to this day.
Payman Langroud…: Defines us.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. Well, I think so. Then, it’s all very well. Sometimes we need to be selfish and sometimes we need to just do things for us. That’s really important too for our mental health. I think that it’s a much more fulfilling life if we can look after each other as well.
Payman Langroud…: Absolutely.
Prav Solanki: Lauren, let’s imagine this is your last day on the planet. You’ve got your children around you and your chickens. What three pieces of advice would you want to leave the world with and your loved ones with and how would you like to be remembered?
Lauren Harrhy: My three bits of advice would be number one, be kind and help where you can. Number two is be brave and stand up for what’s right even when it’s hard. Number three would be that it’s okay to sometimes just be and not have to be something. Sometimes it’s all right just to sit and be and just take everything in.
Lauren Harrhy: I would like to be remembered as somebody who tried to help. Or just tried. I might not be the best clinician. I might not be the best at anything. At least I tried.
Payman Langroud…: That’s lovely.
Prav Solanki: It’ really nice. Thank you so much.
Payman Langroud…: For me, there’s probably thousands of dentists out there doing the things that you’re saying. Contributing. People we’ve never heard of.
Lauren Harrhy: [inaudible 00:56:02].
Payman Langroud…: You’ve embodied it. You’ve embodied it. It has been just lovely. I knew it would be lovely to have you on the show. Thanks a lot for taking the time Lauren.
Lauren Harrhy: Well, thanks-
Prav Solanki: Thank you.
Lauren Harrhy: … for having [inaudible] guys. I really appreciate the chance to have a chat. It’s been lovely therapy this morning. That’s [crosstalk 00:56:22].
Payman Langroud…: A bit different to Larry [Resental] last week, I have to say.
Prav Solanki: [inaudible] you did too much.
Lauren Harrhy: Oh, gosh. All right. [inaudible] thank you so much. I honestly, I really, really do appreciate taking time to speak to me this morning. I hope that anyone who’s listening now knows that there are plenty of ways to reach out for help with [crosstalk 00:56:44].
Payman Langroud…: What the number for Confidental finally?
Lauren Harrhy: It’s 036.
Payman Langroud…: Look it up.
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. I know. Let’s look it in [inaudible] site. 0333 9875158. It’s not free to call yet. Eventually we do hope that it will be a free phone number. I think it’s just charged at local rate. I think it might be free for most [nobales]
Payman Langroud…: If someone wants to get involved, they message you on Facebook?
Lauren Harrhy: Yeah. Or get in touch with Keith Hayes. I think you can probably get hold of Keith via Facebook [inaudible] as well. Yeah. You can directly message me on Facebook for any of your mental health needs.
Payman Langroud…: If anyone’s not on it… I’m sure 6,000 dentists is a lot. The group is called Mental Dental-A Group For Dentists-
Lauren Harrhy: A Group-
Payman Langroud…: … In Crisis.
Lauren Harrhy: … In Crisis. Yes.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah. All right Lauren. Thanks a lot for taking the time Lauren.
Prav Solanki: Lauren, thank you.
Payman Langroud…: lovely.
Payman Langroud…: Thank you.
Prav Solanki: Thank you so much.
Outro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. A podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi & Prav Solanki.
Prav Solanki: Thanks for listening guys. If you’ve got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. Just a huge thank you both from me and Pay for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say and what our guest has had to say. Because, I’m assuming you’ve got some value out of it.
Payman Langroud…: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. If you would share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so much for listening. Thanks.
Prav Solanki: Don’t forget our six star rating.