Alleviating the mental health burden from diabetes

19/Jul/2021     Health

National Diabetes Week runs from the 11 – 17 July and the theme this year is “Heads Up” which focuses on the mental and emotional health of people living with diabetes.

The link between chronic health conditions and mental illness has been well documented with a study from Diabetes Australia finding 50 per cent of people living with diabetes have experienced mental health challenges in the past 12 months.  

At the Mater Queensland Diabetes and Endocrine Clinic (QDEC) clinicians have established pathways and programs to support their patient’s emotional wellbeing.

Clinical Nurse Consultant Marina Noud explains QDEC has a strong relationship with Mater’ mental health services especially the Young Adult Support Unit (YASU) .

“We have developed a psychosocial tool to screen our patients to identify those who may be struggling and welcome early referral to mental health services,” Marina explains.

 “Our team has also collaborated with the state-wide diabetes clinical network to develop and refine successful transition processes and protocols with a strong focus on supporting emotional wellbeing.

“Finally, we work alongside researchers including the University of Queensland in the young adult mental health space and the Mater Research EASY Health team on developing material for people with diabetes and disabilities.” 

Psychologist Carolyn Uhlmann works in the multidisciplinary medical team in the adult diabetes clinics, to support adults living with the challenges of diabetes and improve psychological well-being.  

“We do great work in the young adult space but we are one of the few multidisciplinary diabetes teams in the adult space that has a psychologist within the team, and that is a great thing, and important for supporting the continued wellbeing of our adult patients,” Carolyn said.

Nurse Unit Manager Jo Pennisi said mental health support was important as the demand of self-managing diabetes can become a burden and they do commonly see patients with anxiety and/or depression in additional to patient’s who experience diabetes burnout.

“It can be a struggle to adjust to a diagnosis of diabetes and at times the day-to-day management of diabetes can become overwhelming,” Jo said.

“We do see this with people who have both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes but predominately at QDEC we would see people who have 1 diabetes or more advanced Type 2 diabetes. Both types of diabetes can be equally impacted by mental health concerns which can impact on self-management.

“It’s also important to understand mental health conditions can be present prior to diagnosis of diabetes and it is important to recognise and support these vulnerabilities early to optimise health outcomes for each person.”  

Mater patient Zoie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, now 21 years old is impacted by depression, anxiety and chronic stress due to her condition.

“I feel I live in a state of diabetic burn out, I hate the numbers and constantly feel worry and shame they will be too high or too low. I feel I can’t do anything right when I miss my carb counts,” Zoie said.

“I also feel rejection and discrimination when I need to take my medication in public, I wish there was more awareness of diabetes medication, so people did not assume I was some delinquent doing drugs when I need to inject.

“Thanks to Mater I am able to access the Young Adult Diabetes Clinic and the Young Adult Support Unit which support both my health and mental wellbeing. I am grateful for the services as they make tolerating my condition easier, I wouldn't be where I am today without them.” 

To find out more about the Mater Queensland Diabetes and Endocrine Centre (QDEC), you can visit the website here or call 07 3163 2500.


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