Prioritising Emotional Wellbeing in Diabetes Care

How many healthcare professionals ask you “how are you going” during an appointment?

Not how are your numbers going.

Or how your diet is going.

Or, how are the number of hypos you are having each week going.

When I say ‘how are you going,’ I mean ‘how are YOU going?’

I must admit that I was surprised in hearing psychologist Lisa Robbins express confidence in the abilities of diabetes healthcare professionals to identify burnout triggers, during our live webcast at DX2Melbourne. It’s my view that the right healthcare professional would be able to identify those triggers.

In my humble experience, I often felt a lack of emotional support from my endocrinologist and my doctor in my early days of type 1. I never felt that they had the time for me on a busy clinic day, and I didn’t really feel too important when there were younger children and families around who understandably required more attention.

It was often hard to open up and be honest with them for fear of judgement. My very first endocrinologist told me that I had very poor control, just weeks after my diagnosis. Meanwhile, my general practitioner often told me that “my sugar levels are too high” without actually offering anything more substantial or helpful.

For the record, I certainly don’t expect that an endocrinologist or general practitioner should have to fill the role of a counsellor. They are qualified professionals in high demand. No doubt they have far better things to do with their time than listen to me blubber on about my diabetes.

However, I do expect that health care professionals will listen to me. I do expect that health care professionals will make me feel comfortable to open up to them. I do expect that health care professionals will look beyond what’s written on the charts and talk to me about what’s going on. I expect that health care professionals will show some empathy during consultations. And I expect that healthcare professionals will offer support and encouragement.

This is not a big ask. This can be done. Even on a busy clinic day. Even when time is limited. Even if you’re meeting me for the first time. Even if you are a general practitioner who is not a diabetes expert. Nobody has to be qualified to be supportive and empathetic, in my opinion. Above all, prioritising emotional wellbeing will assist diabetes healthcare professionals to better address the need for any further psychological support.

Emotional wellbeing helps me to see value in my diabetes healthcare team. It encourages me to continue to manage my diabetes to the best of my ability. A good experience motivates me to keep in touch with my diabetes healthcare professionals and to ensure I have my regular checkups. Above all, emotional well being has helped me to prioritise my health. It’s the difference between walking out of the doc’s office holding back tears, or with the biggest grin that I can’t wipe off my face.

Obviously, my endocrinologist and general practitioner are only individual pieces of the “emotional” support puzzle in my diabetes care. I have my wonderful diabetes educator, who has my undivided attention during every 60 minute session I have with her. I have my family at home, whom I have learned to lean on a little. There’s the wonderful Oz Diabetes Online Community, who I can hang out with on Twitter every Tuesday night. I have my soapbox right here at Type 1 Writes, where I can vent about any topic of my choosing. I also have some amazing d-peeps who I am lucky enough to call friends.

Three years ago, I certainly felt very alone with my diabetes.

Finding emotional wellbeing has helped me to embrace it.


  1. Rick Phillips

    I do not think most providers can spot it either Frank. In my experience, the only doctor who actually asks me how I am doing is my rheumatologist. I have never been asked by Endocrinologist.

  2. Becky

    I read your blog and found myself jealous of you! My 11 year old son was diagnosed with T1D 1.5 years ago, and here in Tasmania, there are no paediatric endocrinologists. My son’s Diabetes Clinic is with a paediatrician/obstetrician/gynecologist who happens to have a speciality in diabetes. He is not particularly up-to-date on best practice, and we had to fight to get onto a pump in the early days.
    There is no private diabetes educator here anymore (she moved to WA about 5 months ago). The Diabetes Australia educators are under-staffed and can take up to 4 days just to return a phone call.
    So we do this T1D thing largely on our own. I search out a combination of blogs and research papers to inform our decisions about care for my son. We do a good job of it, but it is awfully lonely.
    And all this from the state that supposedly has one of the highest rates of T1D (nobody knows why– climate, types of viruses here in Tassie, ??). My son is one of 3 kids in his class who have T1D.
    Glad to have found your blog. It looks to be a great read, and I will enjoy a cuppa when I can and read about the insights you bring to life.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Becky. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t have any endos or private DEs near you, but glad that your son has 2 other T1Ds in his class so that he doesn’t feel so alone. Peer support is so valuable.
      Have you used the ADEA directory before? I have no idea about Tassie, but in general I know there are lots of educators who see patients privately out of their houses etc.

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