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Thousands of people with diabetes push for better emotional and mental health support


Diabetes Scotland is today (Thursday) calling for better support around the emotional and mental health impacts of the condition – as the world marks World Diabetes Day.

Supporters from across Scotland are travelling to the Scottish Parliament to meet Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, and share their experiences of how the relentless demands of the condition can adversely affect emotional and mental health. They echo the views of over 2,300 others in Scotland who have signed the charity’s petition, which will also be presented today, as part of its ‘It’s Missing’ campaign.

The campaign calls for the creation of national standards to ensure that every person living with diabetes can get access to emotional and psychological support as a routine part of their diabetes care.

The latest stats from the Scottish Diabetes Survey show there are now over 300,000 people in Scotland living with diabetes. Diabetes Scotland says it is essential people with the condition are provided with person-centred care which sees the whole person and not just the physical indicators of diabetes.

Angela Mitchell, Diabetes Scotland National Director, said: “As the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise in Scotland, there is an urgent and real need for services to recognise the impact that the day-to-day and lifelong demands of diabetes can have on people’s mental health. Services that include emotional and psychological support can not only improve people’s mental wellbeing, but their physical health and quality of life. When diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications, such as amputations, kidney failure and stroke increases.

“The Scottish Diabetes Survey – a robust NHS Scotland report – details the delivery of diabetes care in Scotland. While we’re lucky to have such data in Scotland, a glaring omission is a measure of emotional wellbeing of people living with the condition. People are more than the numbers on their blood glucose reading.

“We have to bridge the divide between physical and mental health services for people with diabetes to ensure that those in Scotland affected by this relentless condition can access the support they need, when they need it. It is possible as we know there are areas of good practice in Scotland. We must learn from these examples and share across the country. Emotional and mental health cannot continue to be missing.”

When emotional and mental health support is part of diabetes care, it can help people to manage their condition better, which can reduce pressure on services and save money. NHS Scotland currently spends £1 billion a year, 10% of its annual budget, on treating diabetes, and much of this is spent on treating complications which, with the right support, can often be avoided.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, said:  “Mental health is an absolute priority for this Government and that’s why we are spending a further £250 million over the next five years to embed support for good mental health across our public services.

“We remain determined to improve access to mental health services for all those who need them - this includes people with diabetes and other long term conditions so that they can live healthy, happy and productive lives.”

Earlier this year, a Diabetes UK survey of more than 2,000 adults living with diabetes across the UK found:

  • Seven out of ten people feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes.
  • 15% have needed specialist emotional support to help them cope with the demands of living with the condition within the last year.
  • However, three-quarters of those who needed specialist emotional support could not access it.

The relentless demands of living with diabetes can affect how people feel, from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety. Struggling emotionally can make it even more difficult to keep on top of diabetes management.

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