Supporting the emotional health needs of Australians with diabetes in clinical practice

At #18ADC, the ACBRD convened a symposium to focus on evidence-based psychological care

By Dr Christel Hendrieckx

Thursday afternoon, last session of the day, and a sunny day in Adelaide. But still, there was a large and engaged audience for the emotional health symposium organised by the ACBRD. Four speakers, including myself, addressed various aspects of emotional health of people living with diabetes.

Dr Christel Hendrieckx (ACBRD, Melbourne) provided an overview of the current evidence base for reducing diabetes distress, showing that specific interventions for diabetes distress are scarce. However, there is evidence that both interventions with a primary focus on diabetes education, as well those with psychological content, have been effective in reducing diabetes distress, with a greater effect found in those with severe distress levels at baseline.

Helen d’Emden (Mater Health Services Brisbane & Diabetes Queensland) shared with the audience her experience of developing and implementing screening for emotional health in their clinic supporting young adults with type 1 diabetes. The screening tool covers a wide range of psychological and social topics, which leads to a better understanding of the individual needs for support. It is well accepted by the young adults attending the clinic. Helen’s presentation was an excellent example of how to weave psychological care into routine consultations. It was also encouraging to hear that this holistic model of care is now replicated in other chronic conditions.

Next up was Dr Kylie Mosely (Bodymatters, Cremorne, NSW) who talked about the complexity of eating disorders in people with diabetes. After introducing the different types of eating disorders, she provided a lot of useful tips for clinicians. For example, how to distinguish eating problems, which are part of managing a complex condition such as diabetes, from full syndrome eating disorder. Other important take home messages were the absolute need for a multidisciplinary approach, that cognitive behavioural therapy is today the most effective intervention, but that there are currently no guidelines specific to the management of diabetes and eating disorders.

The final speaker was Rebecca Munt (Flinders University, Adelaide) who uses the NDSS Diabetes and Emotional health handbook and toolkit to train postgraduate students of the diabetes management and education specialisation at Flinders University. In a 2.5 hour workshop, students with various professional backgrounds are invited to read a handbook chapter and next, in small groups, to prepare a short presentation in which they share their learnings with their colleagues. This approach is well received and raised the students understanding of the most common emotional problems encountered by adults living with diabetes.

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