by Timika Chambers, MSN, RN, BSN, CDE
People with diabetes (PWDs) have an increased risk of developing depression.1 Managing diabetes is a day-to-day endeavor, and every day will have its own opportunities for growth. Many PWDs feel comfortable expressing their emotions and feelings to their diabetes educators; therefore, diabetes educators play a critical role in helping PWDs cope and manage their mental health by providing individualized resources.
Diabetes educators play a critical role in helping PWDs cope and manage their mental health by providing individualized resources
Diabetes educators, especially those who manage the condition themselves, are well aware of the potential stressors. Many PWDs have to make a total lifestyle change that can make them feel angry, confused, fearful and isolated. This emotional stress can manifest in physical ways, a condition called diabetes distress. Diabetes educators should encourage PWDs to understand their diagnosis of diabetes and help them develop a health plan that is actionable and sustainable. To receive the best care possible, PWDs must be honest with themselves and share their emotions and feelings with all members of the care team. We want our clients to maximize the knowledge and skills of their healthcare team. Diabetes educators must keep in mind that we must meet PWDs where they are. Quality education and support are most effective when PWDS are in their optimal mental health.
Here are six things diabetes educators can do to help PWDs reach and sustain optimal mental health.
- Ask open-ended questions about their current mental state. Be nonjudgemental and listen. We do not need to solve every problem. Many times PWDs come up with their solutions to their problems after expressing themselves.
- Encourage PWDs to discuss and write down possible solutions to their problems and stressors. We help our clients be problem solvers instead of looking to others to solve their problems.
- Distinguish between the diabetes and the person. Remind PWDs not to blame themselves when things do not go as planned. Encourage them learn and grow from such opportunities.
- Refer to appropriate community resources (i.e. diabetes support groups). Support groups often confirm that PWDs are not alone. They may find others who have experienced what they are currently going through. Share AADE’s list of recommended peer support group, available at DiabetesEducator.org/PeerSupport.
- Encourage consistent physical fitness as a means to help ward off depression and other mental health issues.
- Be mindful of your own mental health. What we hold inside often has a way of outward expression. We can only teach what we do ourselves.
Are you helping PWDs maintain the best mental health possible? If you need additional resources and guidance to support the mental health of PWDs, visit DiabetesEducator.org/MentalHealth.
- Anderson, R. J., Freedland, K. E., Clouse, R. E., & Lustman, P. J. (2001). The prevalence of comorbid depression in adults with diabetes: A meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 24, 1069 –1078.
About the Author
Guest blogger Timika Chambers is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Certified Diabetes Educator, and has over 20 years of experience in the nursing profession. She has served in community and hospital settings, as well as academia. Timika helps her clients design a lifestyle that is full of energy and focus, by helping them to achieve balance in critical areas of their lives. She offers one-on-one counseling, group coaching, and presentations and training on diabetes management to lay persons and healthcare professionals. Visit her Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter to learn more.