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The Big Picture

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It’s diabetes week 2020 and this year’s theme is ‘The Big Picture’. This theme has been chosen partly to bring together people living with all types of diabetes; by encouraging people to recognise that despite many of the differences between the conditions (particularly type 1 and type 2), there are shared experiences and struggles.

One shared struggle is the lack of psychological care and support in diabetes services. It’s a well established fact that people with diabetes experience higher levels of distress than people who don’t have diabetes, and that this distress impacts on a person’s ability to manage their condition. Distress can often manifest in common issues like depression or anxiety, but people with diabetes also experience issues that only come along with diabetes, like diabetes distress, diabetes burnout and some diabetes specific eating disorders. Years of campaigning by people with diabetes and charities like Diabetes UK has brought increased attention to psychological issues and the lack of specialist support, yet progress on getting support in place has been frustratingly slow.

During the recent COVID outbreak, psychological advice has been crucial in helping people manage the difficult effects of living during a pandemic and going through lockdown. This will continue to be an essential area of work as the immediate threats of the virus subside, and people are left to manage the longer lasting psychological harms like grief and trauma. As diabetes services work on developing new ways of working for COVID and beyond, surely seeing the ‘big picture’ of the whole person, with mind and body together must be key in delivering effective care for everybody living with diabetes.

By DrRoseStewart

Clinical Psychologist working in a young adult diabetes service in NHS Wales. Lead author of Talking Type 1 range and member of team @_diabetes101.

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