I don’t have diabetes. I thought I’d get that out of the way as a disclaimer. It means I will never understand the resilience it might require, the mental health implications, the discipline that might be forced on a person living with diabetes. I can empathise. Empathise with the idea that no one chooses to have diabetes. That if some people living with diabetes had a magic wand, they might wish it away.
Yesterday was #WorldMentalHealthDay and as I recently joined the company, so I did what most of us do nowadays when we want to understand something. I googled it. Although I found a lot of content with experts speaking on the subject, charities offering support and articles linking a number of mental illnesses with the diagnosis, I felt alienated. I initially thought I might have felt that way because I’m an outsider. I quickly realised that a number of people with a diabetes diagnosis, have a breadth of questions about mental health in relation to their condition.
Below are some of the questions people asked in forums, and some search queries they typed into the search engine. I selected those I found the most enlightening, intriguing or on the verge of alarming.
How does type one diabetes affect mental health?
Is there a link between type 1 diabetes and anxiety?
Is there a link between type 1 diabetes and depression?
Should I be so worried about being a type 1 diabetic?
Can diabetes cause bipolar disorder and schizophrenia?
How does diabetes affect type 1 diabetics emotionally?
How does stress cause diabetes?
Can diabetes cause mood swings?
If you are nervous a lot can you get diabetes?
Which psychiatric medications are known to cause diabetes?
Would an attractive woman date a type 1 diabetic man?
I felt conflicted reading some of the comments. It felt like health professionals helping people with diabetes were so focused on the insulin treatment, lifestyle prescription, and what people eat. The mind was the least of their worry. It’s no judgement, it’s something I felt.
Obviously, I know very little about the condition 3 weeks in, but I know people. People need to feel understood, included, loved, cared for, empowered, challenged, supported. Most of all, people want to feel like… people. Not patients, not defined by something they never wished they had.
So beyond #WorldMentalHealthDay, can I urge you to actually care about the people around you. If they have diabetes and you want to help them, support them with accessible language, tailor-made advice and genuine care.
My question to you is the following: do you think the load of expectations on people living with diabetes can be a catalyst to some of the mental health problems they may encounter?
We are people-centred and we develop our app in partnership with people who take insulin. We listen to them, we include them and build for them. If you want to be part of something we are building for you, please apply to participate in our Beta Programme. Help us build a medical device that will help you with the 100s of decisions you have to make everyday.
Click here https://beta.itunes.apple.com/v1/app/1159135459. T&Cs apply.