Student Advice Column: How to Help Someone with T1D and Depression

Student Advice Columnist Maddy

Question: How can I help my friend who has depression and diabetes?

Answer - Maddy:

Rates of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are higher in T1Ds compared to the rest of the population, so your loved one is absolutely not alone. Being a teenager is hard already, and the stress of managing diabetes and mental health on top of school, extracurriculars, and work can make it extra challenging. Acknowledging that your friend has a lot on their plate is a great place to start when determining the best way you can be there for them through their difficulties. 

Here are some words you might want to offer to your friend: 

"I am here for you." 
"You have a lot of responsibilities on your plate, and I am proud of you for doing your best." 
"What can I do for you?" 
"How are you feeling today?" 

Ask open ended questions, and be respectful of how much they do or don't want to talk about regarding how they are feeling. Remind them you are there for them and ask what you can do to help. T1Ds, especially if they are not part of a larger diabetes community with resources, can often feel isolated in their emotions and feelings. Mentioning resources for T1Ds your friend might not know about could also be beneficial. Something as simple as "Hey, I stumbled across this really cool organization called CDN that has tons of resources for teens with T1D... I thought maybe you'd want to check it out!" could do the trick. Connecting with other T1Ds in similar situations could provide tremendous help for your friend and help with those feelings of helplessness. 

Lastly, encouraging your friend to take care of themselves is something you can do. Invite your friend for a bike ride, a game of basketball, whatever they enjoy! Request that you two go to a healthy restaurant to catch up over lunch. Express openness to learn and understand more about their T1D. Ask your friend how their pump or CGM works. Ask them what is important to remember when trying to maintain good blood sugars. Your friend sharing this knowledge might be a gentle reminder to them that "Hey, I haven't been doing that lately... maybe I should try to be better about that." We all need reminders sometimes! 

With support from loved ones and a plan of care determined by their endo, psychologist, and other healthcare providers, both T1D and depression can be well-managed. Above all, validate your friend's struggles and remind them of the incredible support system they have in friends, family, and the entire T1D community.

Editor’s note: The American Diabetes Association has an online directory of mental health professionals who specialize in diabetes. If you’re feeling depressed, burnt out, anxious, etc. about diabetes, it can’t hurt to seek their help.

Also, Lexicon is a CDN Corporate Member and is dedicated to bringing awareness to the relationship between T1D and mental health. Watch CDN's Mental Health and T1D Facebook Live event, which was made possible by funding from Lexicon.

Have a question for our Student Advice Columnists? Ask it here!