WRITTEN BY: Julia Flaherty
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and for people with diabetes it’s especially important to conduct mental health self-check-ins on a regular basis. People with Type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of suffering from mental health issues – studies have shown that they are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders like diabulimia, and diabetes distress and burnout.
While a person with Type 1 diabetes may appear strong on the outside, we must all remember to check in on those who “always seem okay” because everyone is going through something, and everyone needs proper mental care. It’s just being human.
Among the many tribulations of the condition, people with Type 1 diabetes may feel like it’s hard for others to understand them because of it, or feel angry or depressed that there is no cure. Type 1 diabetes takes an enormous mental health toll – it affects a person’s body and every aspect of their health: emotional, mental, physical, financial, and spiritual. The daily frustrations of the physical highs and lows morph into mental highs and lows.
Mental health must be nurtured with compassion among people with Type 1 diabetes, not only from others, but from themselves. It is possible to achieve mental health balance, but if you are struggling, there is no shame and there are many resources available to support you.
If you or someone you love is struggling, these resources may help:
Reach Out to Friends and Family
Be open with your friends and family about how you’re feeling. No matter what you’re going through, you’re never really in it alone. At least, you don’t have to be. Don’t be afraid to tell them what’s on your mind. Starting with some venting and personal talk therapy is starting somewhere if you don’t want to pursue more professional options. Lean on your support system. This is usually a good place to start when you’re feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Find Support in Your Local Community
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a nationwide grassroots association that organizes the work of more than 500 local affiliates, focused on raising awareness and providing support for anyone facing mental illness. By calling or emailing NAMI’s help line , you can be connected with appropriate local resources where you live. NAMI also provides support for family members and loved ones of anyone dealing with mental health issues.
Pursue Online Therapy
When symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, or a poor sense of self become unmanageable, seeking out a medical professional may be the next step.
Since many places across the world are in lockdown, pursuing in-person therapy is not a safe option. Luckily, many therapists are available to conduct video counseling sessions via secure software. If you have been seeing a therapist, counselor, or psychologist in the past before the lockdown, stay in touch with them and ask them if this is an option. If anything, they should still at least be able to correspond with you via a secure messaging software.
There are also many online therapy options and app for people who haven’t ever done it before and need or want to start while in lockdown. Always investigate benefits, plans, features, and pricing for yourself before use, but generally highly-rated services include Amwell , BetterHelp , Faithful Counseling , Pride Counseling , ReGain , Talkspace , and Teen Counseling .
Online Support Groups
If you feel you need an in-between – between friends and family and therapy – seek out support groups online. There are many Facebook groups, for example, that provide ways to connect and share frustrations from one T1D to another. The people who understand Type 1 diabetes best are those who are going through it too. Opening up to Type 1 diabetes online support groups can be wonderful therapy and even provide humor in tough times.
For example, I am a part of a “Women’s Support Group for Type 1 Diabetes” on Facebook, and I have always found members to be relieving, therapeutic, insightful, and compassionate. They just get it! We’re there for each other, even if we don’t know each other intimately. We know the T1D experience intimately, and that’s what matters.
Online support group members tend to understand the cycle of anger, denial, grief, and heartache that come with the condition. When you’re feeling burnt out, your fellow T1Ds are there for you. Do some exploring and online networking to find “your people.” They’re out there – trust me.
Beyond Type 1’s community app allows fellow T1Ds to connect, available on desktop, as well as Android and iOS devices, while JDRF offers Type One Nation , where T1Ds can join relevant conversations and connect with their communities on messaging boards.
You may also find your people on Instagram and Twitter too. Do a little hashtag-digging to find them – you may explore #t1dLife, #t1dDaily, or #t1dLifeCoach, for example. There are many relevant accounts that exist for the community to suit every individual’s connection style.
If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, please do not hesitate to dial the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. You are worth the call. Your life is valuable. The lifeline was designed to provide free and confidential support for people in distress. Crisis and prevention resources are immediately available to you. Whether you need someone for emotional support or are thinking about committing suicide, call the Lifeline. Anonymous callers can talk about anything from abuse to financial distress to relationships to mental health to depression to loneliness – whatever you need help with. They are on the other end of the call waiting to help you, always. If you think you or someone you love is in danger, but are unsure now is the right time to call, click here to learn more .
Achieving a positive state of mental health isn’t easy, but we’re all on the lifelong journey to earning it together. Always remember, despite how alone you may feel, you never are. Tell someone how you’re feeling – someone cares a lot about you. Your Type 1 diabetes community is here to support you, and we welcome you with open arms.