There is a lot of stigma associated with many health conditions. We know that there is significant stigma when it comes to mental health. Groups such as Headspace provide fantastic information about how and where to seek help as well as support initiatives such as the Fifth Army movement which promotes mental health awareness.
But I think that diabetes experiences the worst stigma of all because it seems okay to blame people with diabetes for their condition. This seems to be the case more for type 2 diabetes, but people with type 1 also report being stigmatised and discriminated against because of their diabetes diagnosis.
Any time diabetes is mentioned on the news, it is accompanied with photos of overweight people digging into a burger or slouching in front of the television. Accusations of laziness, overeating and a sedentary way of life follow and before you know it, people are pointing and saying ‘you brought it on yourself’.
Whilst we can excuse this as ignorance or just plain stupidity, it doesn’t change the fact that living with diabetes is tough enough on its own without having to worry about being shamed for having it.
So it was with much excitement that I read about the new Diabetes Stigma Project, an initiative of Dr Jessica Browne and Adriana Ventura from the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes. I know both of these women and am not at all surprised at how well considered this project is.
Funds collected will be used to develop a short questionnaire that will measure people’s experiences of diabetes stigma. The questionnaire will form part of a larger survey that will also examine depression, anxiety, diabetes-related distress, self-management, employment and social support.
This is, indeed, an ambitious project. But providing a clear snapshot of the situation will help address not only the impact of stigma as it relates to those of us living with diabetes, but also find ways to reduce stigmatising behaviours from occurring in the first place.
How can you help?
If you can, consider making a donation to the project. Any amount would be appreciated. The project’s target is $5000, but of course, more money will allow the survey to reach more people and provide a broader understanding of the social stigma associated with living diabetes.
And this is where social media comes into its own!
‘Like’ the Diabetes Stigma Project Facebook page and share the link with all your networks. Share on Facebook and Twitter and even consider writing a far better blog than this one! Tell your friends and family about it and explain why this is such an important issue.
To keep up, follow #diabetesstigma on Twitter and keep an eye on their Instagram – @diabetesstigma. And here is their YouTube clip which you can share with everyone you have ever met!
The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) is a partnership between Diabetes Australia – Vic (DA–Vic) and Deakin University. I am employed by DA–Vic and do not work for the ACBRD, however have been involved in some of their projects. No funds raised in this campaign will directly or indirectly contribute or fund the work I am employed to do.