Making positive changes for young people with Type 1 – by Rebecca
Since being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago, I have pounced on every opportunity to help others with the condition at home and abroad. So when the chance to become a member of the Diabetes UK Young Adults Panel arose, I was compelled to take part.
Consisting of 19 people aged 18-30 with Type 1 diabetes, the panel was designed to help the charity establish better support for our age group. Diagnosed aged 18, my first few months were difficult to cope with, so I was elated to be selected and to begin making positive change for young people with Type 1 – starting with our first meeting at the Diabetes UK office in London.
I love meeting people with Type 1 diabetes. I was of course looking forward to discussing ways support could be improved in the UK and learning about Diabetes UK’s current aims and projects, but there is something indescribable about meeting others with the same condition. Anyone with a chronic illness will understand this. I couldn’t wait.
There was a great range of people from all over the UK, and had an amazing time chatting and sharing how we found out about the panel. After introductions, we began discussing the online content Diabetes UK provides, including travel, sex and relationships, and mental health.
One fantastic idea that resurfaced a few times during the day was a ‘Tinder’ style meet-up app, not for dating but for meeting others with the condition locally. Something we all seemed to agree on was the isolation the condition brings, so being able to meet others online or locally would be a fantastic solution. As a student, this was particularly interesting to me; in the US, diabetes support chapters exist in universities, whereas in the UK this does not seem to have caught on. An app like this could make the transition from home to university much smoother, with the help of a person in a similar situation!
Alcohol and drug use was also discussed amongst some panel members. It is a fact that many young people come into contact with one or two of these substances, and shaking a finger is not going to prevent it. There must be some kind of confidential support available for people with Type 1 diabetes to consult, in order to make their experience as safe as possible.
I also raised the question of diabetes treatment for the homeless. Without permanent addresses, it can be exceptionally difficult for homeless people to gain any kind of care, and for homeless people with diabetes, I cannot imagine how difficult it is to access care; and it seemed this was a gap in Diabetes UK’s work. I need to do more research into this, but it is something I am interested in pursuing in Leeds, to find out how care is given.
Lunch was brilliant. Seeing the pumps and pens appear from bags and pockets was totally bizarre, especially as the pump-users compared brands and showed off the tech. I must admit, as someone on Multiple Daily Injections (MDI),, I was a bit jealous of the gadgets!
I do really love events like this; so many inspiring people, and a small jolt to keep my own care in check. I watched as people changed their needles, checked their blood sugar… two things I have begun to slack on as the pressure of university has crept up. Sometimes it is really difficult to stay on top of my health as I watch everyone else carefree with their food; yet this is a mindset I must change.
It was a grand day. A productive, tiring day. Even the sun shone a beautiful pathetic fallacy over the city, and I cannot wait to get involved again.
Find out more about the Diabetes UK Young Adults Panel.