Mental health matters. Especially for those living with diabetes, a chronic condition affecting more than 4 million Canadians, that requires countless decisions every day about food, rest, play and more.
Living with diabetes is a constant balancing act of planning nutrition, monitoring blood glucose, managing medications – and the fear from the risk of a myriad of potential diabetes-related complications, including blindness, kidney disease, amputation, and even early death.
People with diabetes are more likely to experience mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders and can benefit from interventions that prevent or treat these mental health conditions. But standard care for diabetes doesn’t always address mental health concerns when they exist, despite evidence that mental health challenges affect the physical management of the disease and can result in poorer quality of life and health outcomes. Moreover, few Canadian mental health providers have the necessary knowledge about diabetes to help properly address the unique mental health needs of people living with the condition.
In 2021, JDRF Canada launched a Mental Health Strategy that set out to address some of the many gaps in mental health support for people with diabetes through funding research, training healthcare providers, and developing community programs focused on mental health. Partnerships with organizations working in the areas of diabetes and mental health is crucial for the strategy to positively impact the diabetes community and their care providers.
The Mental Health + Diabetes Training Program, developed by JDRF Canada with the support of Diabetes Canada, was designed to help to fill a gap in Canadian health systems. This bilingual program, launched in late 2022, provides knowledge and tools to help registered Canadian mental health providers deliver the best support to their clients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and expand the capacity of health systems to meet this need.
Mental health providers who successfully complete the Mental Health + Diabetes Training Program will have the opportunity to join a new, publicly accessible Mental Health + Diabetes Directory, to be launched later in the year. The Directory will allow healthcare providers and people living with diabetes to be referred to trained providers who can offer specialized support specific to living with this chronic disease.
This unique training program and upcoming directory will help to close gaps in both the delivery of and access to mental health supports for those living with diabetes.
Dr. Sarah Linklater, Chief Scientific Officer – JDRF Canada
“Most mental health providers have limited knowledge of the specific mental health impacts of diabetes, in many cases limiting opportunities for a productive and long-lasting connection with clients with diabetes.”
“Through the Diabetes + Mental Health Training Program and an upcoming associated provider directory, JDRF aims to increase the capacity of Canadian mental health providers to support people with diabetes and, in turn, improve their quality of life and health outcomes. These initiatives are part of JDRF Canada’s broader Mental Health Strategy, which also includes community support programs, and research funding specifically related to mental health and T1D. Working together with Diabetes Canada will allow us to expand the reach of these initiatives and we are very grateful for their collaboration.”
Laura Syron, CEO & President – Diabetes Canada
“As someone who lives with type 2 diabetes, I know first-hand the toll managing your diagnosis can take on your mental health and well-being,” says Laura Syron, CEO & President of Diabetes Canada. “For people living with diabetes struggling with anxiety, depression and often shame, this program will offer a critical lifeline and support system, and perhaps most importantly help them feel seen and heard.”
Monica Murray, Registered Psychotherapist, Ontario
The Mental Health + Diabetes Training Program provided me with pertinent information about the physical and mental health effects of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. After completing all areas of the training including the e-learning modules and the live session, I feel confident to incorporate the comprehensive material into my private practice. The training can be applied to individuals and family members who are either coping with a new diagnosis or the lasting effects of these conditions.
Jen Miller – parent of a child with type 1 diabetes
We haven’t received any mental health support from our diabetes clinic. I’ve spoken to other parents who are trying to navigate the system and trying to find some help for their kids. And it’s hard. There are not a lot of providers out there, especially on the public side, but even on the private side. I had a counselor recommended to me by another parent and the wait list to see that person is over a year and a half, and it’s on the private side. I’d like Cody (my son) to find it normal to speak to a counselor or to a psychologist about his life. And then when problems arise, it’ll be easy for him to talk to someone. But if I needed help now, it would be almost impossible to find it.
About JDRF Canada
JDRF Canada is the leading charitable organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research in Canada. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. Since our founding in 1974, JDRF has invested more than $80 million CDN in research funding. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, governments, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers throughout Canada and five international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our shared vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.ca
About Diabetes Canada
A world free of the effects of diabetes is our vision. That’s why we’re working together to improve the quality of life of people living with diabetes. We’re sharing knowledge and creating connections for individuals and the health-care professionals who care for them; advocating through public policy; and funding research to improve treatments and find a cure to end diabetes.