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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Diabetes research spotlight - mental health and emotional wellbeing

We've spoken to thousands of people whose lives are affected by diabetes. They told us that too often the emotional and mental support they need is missing, and scientists are joining the fight to change this.

Diabetes doesn’t just affect you physically, it can affect you emotionally too. But we don’t yet understand exactly how it can affect you, how to spot the signs and what kind of support can help.

We know there's a vital need for more research into the emotional wellbeing of people living with diabetes, and here we'll explain what we've started to do about it.

Researching diabetes and emotional health – starting with eating disorders

We held a workshop with world renowned researchers, from across our Clinical Studies Groups and beyond, and people living with diabetes to agree the priority research areas that scientists need to work on.

They agreed 11 priority areas, all equally important in improving the mental and emotional wellbeing of people living with diabetes.

And we’re already taking steps to get this research off the ground. We've invited scientists to apply for funding on eating disorders research, one of the priority areas.

Bekki Millar

“Mental health is very close to my heart for many reasons, mainly because I’ve suffered conditions related to depression more than once. This ‘taboo’ aspect of diabetes care is not addressed, and I feel it is the most important. So I was delighted and honoured to be part of this workshop.”

Bekki Millar, who's in one of our Clinical Studies Groups and has Type 1 diabetes

Our top 11 research priorities

Eating disorders

We need to understand how and why people with diabetes develop eating disorders, and how to best care for them if they do.

Depression

People with diabetes are twice as likely to have depression. We need to understand why, so that we can find the best ways to care for them.

Social stigma

We need to understand how stigma impacts people with diabetes emotionally and socially, and the knock-on effect this could have on how someone manages their diabetes, so we can reduce it or prevent it from happening.

Language

We need to improve the language used by healthcare professionals, so that consultations don’t negatively impact wellbeing. Language matters to people with diabetes.

Supporting people who find it difficult to engage with their diabetes

Some people with diabetes find it difficult to engage with their condition. We need new ways to help them keep to target blood sugar levels, without negatively affecting their emotional wellbeing.

Supporting friends and family members

Diabetes can impact friends and family members emotionally too, which can come full circle and affect the person with diabetes. We need to support everyone affected by diabetes.

Learning from best practice

We need to learn from those who are already successfully incorporating care for people with diabetes with mental wellbeing support, so that we can share their practice across the UK and internationally.

Diabetes distress

We need consistent and effective UK-wide services to screen for people with diabetes distress and support them. This needs to be part of everyday diabetes care.

Emotional wellbeing when you're diagnosed

Being diagnosed with diabetes can come as a shock. We need to find ways for healthcare professionals to diagnosis people and support them emotionally – both at that moment in time and in the future.

The effect of Type 2 diabetes medications on mood

Some research has suggested that medications we already prescribe to people with Type 2 diabetes might positively boost your mood – we need to find out more.

Diabetes technology

We need to understand how and why technology can affect the mental wellbeing of people with diabetes, so we can maximise the benefits of diabetes tech.

Workshop with diabetes and mental health experts

To reach these 11 priorities, we hosted a two-day workshop uniting international experts on mental health and diabetes under one roof alongside people living with diabetes. There were 48 attendees, with the expertise needed to establish what we need to do as a research community to accelerate progress in mental wellbeing and diabetes.

They delved deeper into the detail of each priority area and agreed recommendations for the research community, to help them face it head on. You can read a detailed report of the priorities and research recommendations published in our journal, Diabetic Medicine.

We see the workshop and report as a first step, and now, by working together, we need to make sure that the research questions in the report are answered.

"To be able to launch a funding call for research into diabetes and eating disorders is a significant step forward, which we hope will make a real difference to the wellbeing of people living with diabetes. The 11 priorities outlined in the report lay bare the challenge ahead of us, but we can’t do it alone. We hope that the research community and funders alike will follow our lead, and position mental health research as a top priority.”

Anna Morris, our assistant director of Research Strategy and Partnerships

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