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Our Lives, Our Voices: a new mental health and emotional Wellbeing Programme

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland is launching a new mental health and emotional Wellbeing Programme designed for young people living with type 1 diabetes.

The Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices project is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund NI and has been designed by young people living with type 1 diabetes, for young people living with the condition. Our Lives, Our Voices’ young leaders created the Wellbeing Programme to support others in gaining confidence and managing all aspects of their condition. This project aims to create a safe space where they can talk, learn and feel part of a community. It is the first time a youth-led programme like this, in partnership with local mental health charities, is available in Northern Ireland.

Our Lives, Our Voices logo

People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. About 8% of the nearly 100,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in Northern Ireland have type 1. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable. It’s the most common type of diabetes in children and young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses taken either by injections or via an insulin pump. It is also recommended to follow a healthy diet and take regular physical activity.

Management of physical symptoms 24/7 – for instance by checking blood glucose levels, or managing diet alongside the continual need to make decisions, and take actions, in order to reduce the likelihood of short and long-term complications, can affect every aspect of day-to-day life. Young people are also three times more likely to experience psychological problems than those without diabetes. Recent Diabetes UK research revealed that the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional, mental and psychological wellbeing and health. This can include day-to-day frustration and low mood, specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety.

Diabetes UK also found that 7 out of 10 people living with diabetes feel overwhelmed by the everyday demands of the condition which significantly affects their mental and physical health. The charity launched the It’s Missing campaign to highlight the need for emotional and mental health provision as part of diabetes care.

Diabetes UK Assistant Director for Local Impact, Dr David Chaney, said, "This is a really exciting opportunity for young people in Northern Ireland living with type 1 diabetes. We know that there is a real need for emotional and mental health support and when you are living with the constant demands of type 1 diabetes that support has been lacking. This programme changes this. We are so proud of the young leaders currently participating in the Our Lives, Our Voices project working in partnership to design the Wellbeing programme which will be delivered across all 5 Trusts in Northern Ireland.

"Mental health has never had a bigger public profile and it is timely that now the Our Lives, Our Voices programme will be made available to the local young type 1 diabetes community. The constant finger-pricking, checking bloods, managing a relentless, lifelong condition, trying your best to live your life and balance all the demands of diabetes management can take its toll emotionally. Get in touch if you are aged 13-25 years - you are not alone, support is available and together we will work towards a world where diabetes can do no harm."

This new programme is partnering with local mental health charities AWARE and Action Mental Health.

Tom McEneaney, Head of Business Development and Support Services at AWARE said, "AWARE is delighted to be partnering with Diabetes UK Northern Ireland and Action Mental Health in this very exciting youth-led, innovative project to enable young people to manage their lifelong condition.

"Young people face many challenges in managing this condition and this project empowers them with the skills, knowledge and personal resilience to improve their overall physical and mental health and wellbeing."

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AMH Chief Executive, David Babington, said: “This ground-breaking initiative is unique for its youth-led approach, and aims to empower young people to better manage both their life long physical condition and mental health and well-being.

“Action Mental Health is delighted to support the mental health impact of the serious issue of diabetes and the need for emotional support. By working collaboratively with partner agencies, health care professionals and young people, Diabetes UK Northern Ireland will be able to build peer support networks and enable young people to strengthen their personal resilience and management of their diabetes.”

AMH logo

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund, which made this project possible through a grant of £430,282 over four years, said: “Our experience of working with communities is that when you listen, young people in particular have amazing ideas for making things better. I am proud that money raised by National Lottery players is being used to fund this brilliant project, which is led by young people with type 1 diabetes, to improve mental health and wellbeing. Well done to everyone involved, for making a real difference to the lives of young people in Northern Ireland.”

If you are aged 13-25 years and living with type 1 diabetes in Northern Ireland and want to find out more or  take part in the Our Lives, Our Voices Wellbeing programme, contact or call Diabetes UK Northern Ireland on 028 9066 6646.

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