Teenager Lavena McStocker has spoken of how her emotional health has been transformed thanks to an online Wellbeing programme run by Diabetes UK NI's youth project Our Lives, Our Voices.
Lavena, 14, has gone from someone who struggled to cope with her diabetes to someone who now confidently talks to over one hundred student nurses about living with the condition. Thanks to her involvement in the Our Lives, Our Voices and its Wellbeing programme, made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund NI, she now plans to become a specialist diabetes psychologist to help others.
A schoolgirl who struggled to cope with her diabetes plans to become a psychologist to help others thanks to an inspirational Wellbeing programme run by Diabetes UK NI's youth project Our Lives, Our Voices.
Lavena McStocker, 14, from Moneyglass in Co Antrim, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 8, but found it difficult to accept how the diagnosis impacted on her everyday life.
Lavena explained; “From the very start of my diagnosis I completely ignored it – I didn’t want to deal with it. I really put my head in the sand over it and didn’t talk to anyone about it. I didn’t want people to know about it.”
Lavena manages her diabetes through an insulin pump that injects insulin into her body numerous times a day.
But it was joining the youth project Our Lives, Our Voices, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund NI, that turned out to be the ‘gamechanger’ that Lavena needed.
She said; “I’d say I was completely burned out from my diagnosis until the day I joined Our Lives, Our Voices. I was so negative about my diabetes. I thought ‘this has ruined my life completely’. I never really talked to anyone else about my diabetes.
“I didn’t want to spend any more time talking about my diabetes when I lived with it. That’s why I was a bit anxious about joining the project but it wasn’t like talking to medical professionals, who would tell me were I was going wrong with my diabetes, it was a friendly point of view of how to cope with things for them to get better.”
Unfortunately, due to a lack of information and peer support available young people aged 13 to 25 years old currently living with diabetes are three times more likely to have psychological problems than those without the condition. The Wellbeing programme aims to address this and offer the emotional support for teenagers with type 1 diabetes that is clearly needed, as well as helping them learn the skills to confidently manage their condition.
Lavena credits her growth in confidence to joining the youth scheme and became deeply involved in helping to develop the Wellbeing programme. The Moneyglass teen has gone from not talking about her diabetes to sharing her experience of living with type 1 to over one hundred student nurses, all thanks to the Our Lives, Our Voices project, and its Wellbeing programme.
“Adults don’t have the same perspective as a young person. They don’t necessarily know where they are coming from or how they are feeling. So, to have young people helping design the Wellbeing programme I thought was a great idea. It is designed by young people for young people so it’s dealing with issues that concern them.
“It has helped me improve my mental health and helps in the way you cope with your diabetes. I’ve made new friends from it and we have a Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp group so we’re doing our best to stay connected.”
She added; “I would like to become a psychologist specialising in diabetes as having the condition has such an impact on your mental wellbeing. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding that aspect of diabetes. I think by becoming a psychologist I could help break down that stigma and help others.”
The Wellbeing programme starts Wednesday, February 24th at 7pm and runs for four weeks. Each week there will be a different topic to discuss such as diabetes burnout and stigma.
Lavena believes its worthwhile for other young people living with type 1 diabetes to get involved as it empowers and gives participants skills that are useful for their emotional wellbeing now and in the future.
Lavena added; “It gives you life skills for going forward. For two hours you can learn skills that will help you for the rest of your life.”
To sign-up to the Wellbeing programme email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the Our Lives, Our Voices youth project go to https://bit.ly/3qW3YLa or follow on Instagram @ourlivesourvoices or Twitter @DUKOurLives.