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Diabetes Victoria Blog

Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.

Staying strong: your mental health matters


Mental health

2020 has been a year full of challenges, with COVID-19 the most significant. Victorians have had it tough with stricter and longer lockdown periods than the rest of the country. During this period, some of us have lost jobs, struggled to juggle work-life and home-life as well as helping our kids through online learning - all placing a strain on our mental health. 

But for those of us living with diabetes, the impact of the pandemic, including social distancing, lockdown restrictions and a higher risk of complications from contracting COVID-19, have left some of us with heightened feelings of distress, worry, anxiety and isolation.  

To honour National Mental Health Awareness Month this October, we’re raising awareness about the mental and emotional health issues faced by people living with diabetes, and where you can find support and reliable information. 

Heads Up - 180 more decisions and diabetes burnout

Diabetes Australia launched an awareness campaign, Heads Up, back in July after conducting research with the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD). The research found that people living with diabetes make on average 180 more decisions per day than people who don’t live with diabetes. The research also found more than a third of people living with diabetes say they feel ‘burned out’ by managing their diabetes, while 50 per cent said they have experienced mental health challenges in the last 12 months. More than 80 per cent of people living with diabetes said they have not been offered psychological support. 

The impacts of social stigma

Not only do people living with diabetes make more decisions every day, but they are often subjected to negative social judgement or stigma. Being subjected to stigma can lead to perceived or experienced exclusion, rejection, blame or stereotyping. COVID-19 has only increased some of these feelings of stigmatisation as people living with diabetes  are in a higher risk category. 

If you’re a friend, family member, carer or support person, be mindful of using stigmatising language. As Rudyard Kipling stated: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind”. Read Diabetes Australia’s language position statement for recommendations and further information. 

Information at your fingertips

Although living with diabetes comes with its challenges and COVID-19 has made things feel a little uncertain, we’ve put together a list of helpful factsheets to help you navigate through tough times: 

  • Living with diabetes, and the stresses and uncertainties it brings, means you are likely to be better prepared to cope with unprecedented times like COVID-19. If you find yourself worrying, try and focus on the things you can control. Try some of the tips in this handy factsheet

  • Maintaining your annual cycle of care by attending your regular appointments is more important than ever. If you’re unsure about accessing diabetes care during these times, there are many options still available to ensure you are getting the support you need from your healthcare team. Learn more about what steps to take when attending a healthcare facility or how to take part in a telehealth consultation here

  • Diabetes can be relentless and tough to live with. Sometimes feelings of distress, frustration, guilt, sadness or worry may arise which is understandable from time to time, but it is important to know that you are not alone. This factsheet provides strategies that may help you cope when these feelings arise. 

  • Seeking psychological support from a qualified health professional might be beneficial. But if you’re unsure when, why and how to access support from a psychologist, this factsheet can help.  

Below you can find further reading relating to diabetes and emotional health, be sure to take the time to check them out: 

We recently spoke to registered psychologist and research fellow at ACBRD, Dr Shikha Gray, about mental health and diabetes. Shikha explains the link between diabetes and depression, or other mental illnesses. You can listen to the conversation below or via Spotify or Apple podcasts


Exercise is medicine

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do not only for your mental health but your physical health too. Learn more about the types of physical activity and there benefits here or check out the resources below for simple ideas to get moving: 

Mindfulness: a simple practice

You’ve most likely heard of mindfulness or meditation which involves paying attention to the present moment with curiosity and without judgement. Mindfulness is a great activity to practice regularly with research showing it can help: 

  • reduce worries, anxiety and distress 

  • create a sense of calm  

  • relax and regulate emotions 

  • improve concentration and increase productivity 

  • improve sleep quality. 

We like to think of it as ‘mental hygiene’, just like dental hygiene, you do it every day to keep yourself healthy. Why not give mindfulness a go by using one of the following applications: 

Get in touch: don’t go it alone 

Lastly, don’t go it alone. If you need support, please call the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) Helpline on 1800 637 700. The new hours are: 

  • Monday to Friday – 8.30am to 8pm  

  • Saturday – 9am to 2pm  

You can also get in touch with the services below which operate 24/7 by phone, text or online chat: 

Remember it’s ok to seek support from others because “when we support each other incredible things can happen” (anonymous).