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Breaking the Stigma: A Call to Change the Conversation Around Diabetes

Living with diabetes comes with a multitude of challenges, not just from managing the condition itself but also from the social stigma that surrounds it. Misunderstandings and negative stereotypes often lead to damaging judgments and misconceptions, which can significantly impact the mental and physical well-being of those affected. Laura Syron, President and CEO of Diabetes Canada, sheds light on this critical issue in her thought-provoking article.


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Syron emphasizes the importance of eliminating the stigma attached to diabetes, sharing her personal experiences and insights into how societal perceptions can negatively affect individuals living with the condition. She highlights that diabetes is a complex disease with various types and risk factors, many of which are beyond an individual's control, such as genetics and environment. Yet, people with diabetes frequently face unjust blame and prejudice.


In her article, Syron notes the federal government’s decision to cover diabetes medication and devices under its new pharmacare plan as a significant step forward. However, she argues that access to medication alone isn't enough. To truly improve the lives of those living with diabetes, we must address and dismantle the stigma surrounding the condition.


Here's an excerpt from Laura Syron’s compelling article:


"Those living with diabetes have heard it all: they’re lazy, they lack self-control, or they deliberately do not look after themselves. Not surprisingly then, people with diabetes are left feeling blamed and ashamed — that this life-changing diagnosis is all their fault. I know how that feels. Literally. When I was told that I had diabetes, I felt a wave of immense shame and immediately concluded that I had clearly, somehow, brought it on myself. Not only did I want to keep it secret from others, but I also needed to, so I could 'take care of it myself.'"


Blood sugar monitoring

Syron also addresses the prejudice that people with diabetes face in public and healthcare settings. She describes scenarios where self-care practices, such as checking blood glucose levels or injecting insulin, are mistaken for illicit drug use or intoxication. This misunderstanding can lead to harmful and embarrassing situations, further contributing to the stigma.


"People with diabetes can face prejudice in public when their self-care practices, like checking blood glucose levels or injecting insulin for a health emergency, is mistaken for illicit drug use or being intoxicated," she writes.


Another critical point Syron makes is the impact of stigma on mental health. The constant judgment and negative perceptions can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, often referred to as "diabetes distress." This psychological toll can be as debilitating as the physical aspects of the disease.


"This can all take a damaging psychological toll. Research shows that people with diabetes are at risk of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. This is often called diabetes distress," Syron explains.


To combat these issues, Syron advocates for broad education across society to dispel misconceptions and for targeted education in workplaces and healthcare settings to better support people living with diabetes. She calls for a shift in how we talk about and approach diabetes, moving towards a more understanding and supportive dialogue.


"We need broad education across our society to dispel the misconceptions — what I sometimes called the triple threat of diabetes beliefs — misinformation, apathy, and stigma. And we need more targeted education too — in workplaces and healthcare settings to ensure they are more supportive of people living with diabetes."


Collaboration

Syron concludes with a powerful message about the need for open dialogue and supportive communities for those living with diabetes:


"Perhaps most importantly, we must start having a more open dialogue about diabetes in Canada, so that those of us living with it are more comfortable talking about it. It’s time to eliminate the stigma around diabetes so that the millions of us living with it get to enjoy full and healthy lives."


Laura Syron’s article is a vital call to action, urging society to rethink and change how we perceive and talk about diabetes. By eliminating stigma, we can help those living with the condition to lead fuller, healthier lives without the burden of judgment and shame.


To read the full article and join the conversation, visit the original post here: Opinion: It's time to eliminate the stigma attached to diabetes. I know how it feels. Also, read more at Diabetes Canada

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