What people with diabetes need to know about accessing a psychologist for support

We report on two new leaflets published by the NDSS, and developed by the ACBRD

by Dr Shikha Gray

Diabetes is a demanding condition that needs constant self-monitoring and self-care. That’s on top of the commitments and chores of everyday life. So it’s not uncommon for people with diabetes to feel frustrated, down, or other distressing emotions. While most people manage well most of the time, emotional support from others can help to lessen the burden of diabetes.

For many people, their regular health professionals (e.g., GPs, endocrinologists and diabetes educators) are a valuable source of emotional support. Many people feel reassured once they’ve talked openly about their challenges with their health professional. For further support, it can help to connect with a psychologist. But it’s not always easy to know when and how to go about this. So, we teamed up with the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) to develop two new leaflets:

(1) For people with diabetes: ‘When and how psychologists can support people with diabetes

(2) For health professionals: ‘Assisting people with diabetes to access professional psychological support: a practical guide for health professionals’

Why?

Psychologists can support people in making positive changes to their mood, well-being, and the way they think and feel about their diabetes. But, for many reasons, people can feel discouraged from talking to a psychologist. This can be due to:

  • not knowing how to broach the topic during a diabetes consultation
  • not knowing what psychologists do, and what happens during a session
  • myth that psychologists only see people with emotional health concerns that are serious
  • a fear that talking about difficult emotions can make things worse
  • myth that seeing a psychologist is a sign of weakness or a major problem
  • past negative experience with a psychologist

Fortunately, some of these barriers can be overcome. With this in mind, we developed the two leaflets.

How?

First, we looked at previous research: what we already know about the barriers to accessing psychological support. From this, we drafted the two leaflets. We then asked for external feedback: we surveyed and interviewed 18 people with diabetes, and interviewed 9 health professionals (including our Expert Reference Group). We finalised the leaflets in keeping with the feedback we received. 

What next?

It is recommended that these leaflets (along with other NDSS emotional health leaflets) be used in diabetes healthcare to assist people with diabetes access professional psychological support when needed.

The NDSS is an initiative of the Australian Government administered with the assistance of Diabetes Australia.

For more about emotional and mental health, read our other blogs here.