A new survey has highlighted the emotional and mental toll living with Type 2 diabetes has on British Columbians.
Forty-three per cent of British Columbians who have the disease say it negatively impacts their emotional wellbeing, and 38 per cent say it negatively impacts their mental health.
With the federal government poised to launch a national diabetes strategy, advocates are emphasizing the importance of including mental wellbeing in the strategy.
“It’s going to be a very comprehensive management and support system that the federal government now acknowledges people living with diabetes need,” said Dr. Akshay Jain, a clinical and research endocrinologist.
The new strategy should involve increased funding, mental health counsellors, increased screening, prevention campaigns and medication cost support, according to Jain.
The change in thinking from the federal government is thanks to years of advocacy from groups like Diabetes Canada to prove that diabetes is a major public health issue. It directly affects 11 million Canadians and costs the national health care system $30 billion each year, according to Diabetes Canada.
A diagnosis is life-changing, Jain said.
“They’re told that everything that they’ve eaten so far is not right, […] and the activity levels that they are doing are no longer adequate.”
Mental distress is three-fold, according to psychologist Michael Vallis. There’s an emotional burden, a burden of social distress and what he calls “regimen distress.”
Coming to terms with illness brings an emotional burden, Vallis said, as well as involves lifestyle changes such as monitoring glucose levels, adjusting medications and watching diet closely.
“Nobody wants to be sick, and so there’s a certain degree to which you have to say ‘I’ve got a problem here, and there are some risks associated with it,” he said.
“We live in a world in which people don’t quite understand diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes.”
According to the survey, 67 per cent of British Columbians with Type 2 diabetes say their diabetes makes them feel isolated and 76 per cent feel they are being judged for their diabetes and can’t be honest with their loved ones about their condition.
To facilitate that change in thinking, Vallis said it’s about understanding the illness without bringing stigma of it being a personal failure.
“If you want to help, rather than give advice, just say, ‘how can I help?’ If we listen to the individual, they can guide us.”