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Sport stars back call for emotional support

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They may be tough guys on the pitch but England rugby players Chris Pennell, Henry Slade and footballer Ben Coker all agree it takes true courage to ask for help. That’s why the trio are proud to be backing Diabetes UK’s call for more emotional support to be offered to people with diabetes.

Research shows that people with diabetes are twice as likely as the general population to suffer from depression but, Diabetes UK warns, very few get access to the professional psychological support they need.

Two thirds of people said they had not received psychological help

A survey of 3,845  people with diabetes, conducted by the charity, found that more than two thirds (68 per cent) of people who had needed psychological support said they had not received it.

Access to emotional and psychological support is one of the15 Healthcare Essentialsthat Diabetes UK says every person with diabetes – whatever the type – should receive if they are assessed as needing it. The charity is calling for all Clinical Commissioning Groups, the local bodies responsible for healthcare in their areas, to make sure they are commissioning appropriate psychological support services.

Standing shoulder to shoulder

The three professional sportsmen, all of whom haveType 1 diabetes, say they are standing shoulder to shoulder to highlight this important issue as they understand firsthand how difficult it can be to live with a lifelong condition which requires constant monitoring and, if not properly managed, can lead to serious complications.

Chris Pennell, who has played for England and is the current captain of Worcester Warriors, was 19 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He said: “People in sport often talk about a match being a war or a battle. But sometimes the biggest battles can be off the pitch, particularly when living with diabetes. That’s why I’m supporting Diabetes UK’s call for more psychological and emotional help to be offered to all people with diabetes, whatever type. It’s one of the 15 essential checks and services that people with diabetes should be receiving every year from the NHS.”

Exeter Chief’s Henry Slade, who scored against Uruguay in his World Cup debut on Saturday, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just after his 18th birthday. He said: “Getting emotional and psychological support for your diabetes is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength, and that support is one of the 15 vital things that everyone with diabetes is entitled to ask for from the NHS. Depression is twice as common for people with diabetes, but with the right help and support people can recover. Let’s tackle depression and diabetes now. No-one should feel like they are on their own with this condition.”

Southend United’s Ben Coker, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged 15, said: “When I’m out on the pitch, I can feel the support around me - not just from my team mates and the fans but also the team you don’t see. Coaches, physios and nutritionists all help me bring my A game. With diabetes, you are living with it 24/7, 365 days a year and yet you might just get a couple of hours with your GP each year. That’s why I’m asking the NHS to play their part. They must invest in better emotional and psychological support for people with diabetes. With the right team behind you, anything is possible.”

As well as increased rates of depression, levels of anxiety and eating disorders are also significantly higher amongst people with diabetes. All of these conditions can lead to poorer diabetes self-care which can, in turn, lead to an increased risk of devastating complications such as blindness, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and amputation. This means that giving more people access to appropriate emotional support could help the NHS save money by helping people to self-manage and reduce their risk of complications.

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “People with diabetes tell us that coping with your condition every hour of every day can be stressful and overwhelming. It can feel very isolating as so few people understand what it’s all about. But we know that getting the right emotional support can make a huge difference and can improve people’s mental health as well as helping improve their physical health outcomes.

“GPs need to consider the emotional needs of people with diabetes as part of their overall personal care planning. They should ask people how they are feeling so they can pave the way to professional psychological support when they need it. But for this to happen it is absolutely critical that appropriate psychological support services are commissioned and available to everyone who needs them, no matter where they live.”

The 15 Healthcare Essentials are the vital checks and services that everyone with diabetes should be getting from their healthcare team. Diabetes UK is asking people with diabetes to take part in their new survey. The information provided is crucial in helping the charity fight for the changes and improvements that will make the most difference to the lives of people with diabetes.

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