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The emotional impact of a diabetes diagnosis: Sarah’s story

Sarah was 12 when she was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Now 21, and a student at Bournemouth university, Sarah reflects on the confusion, shame, and stigma she faced because of her diagnosis. 

Diabetes and stigma 

“Because I was diagnosed so young, I was often asked whether I had been misdiagnosed. I felt confusion and shame, and this wasn’t any different when I spoke to healthcare professionals.  

“Growing up with type 2, I would feel very pitied by others. My parents and grandparents all live with type 2 diabetes as well but there’s a lot of stigma attached to type 2. People would give me unsolicited advice on how to manage the condition because everyone assumes it’s because you eat too much sugar.” 

“Diabetes is serious, and every diagnosis is life changing. It’s a relentless condition, and the fear of serious complications is a lifelong reality for millions of people across the UK. Sarah’s story also shows the heavy toll the condition can have on an individual’s mental health.”

Phaedra Perry, Head of Diabetes UK – South West and South Central.

Of the 1,116 children in England registered with paediatric diabetes units as having type 2, 98.2% are living with overweight or obesity. Sarah continued: “Growing up I was living with overweight and felt incredibly self-conscious about my appearance. From the age of 14 to 18 I lived with an eating disorder, which I only now recognise was binge eating.” 

If you’re struggling, remember our helpline team are here to support you. It's open Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm.  

Volunteering at Diabetes UK 

Sarah giving out leaflets at Diabetes UK event stand

Sarah, who moved to Bournemouth from Lebanon last year, is now studying for a Master’s in Nutrition and Behaviour at Bournemouth University. She has recently taken on a Community Champion role for Diabetes UK. As a Community Champion she’ll work to raise awareness of diabetes, particularly type 2, amongst ethnic minority groups.  

She said: “I know first-hand how difficult it can be to come to terms with a new diagnosis. So, by working as a Community Champion in the local area, I hope to encourage conversations around diabetes, and help raise awareness of how people can reduce their risk of developing type 2.  

“The Diabetes UK Know Your Risk tool is a great place to start – it only takes a few minutes to complete and aims to help people find out their risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next ten years.” 

Volunteering with Diabetes UK – South west and south central  

Interested in joining our team of local volunteers? Get in touch with us for an informal chat and find out how you can get involved. 

Contact your local Diabetes UK team.

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