Diabetes UK have opened a call for research applications that aim to better understand stigma experienced by people with diabetes, including people with different types of diabetes and from different communities. It also aims to identify strategies to reduce or prevent diabetes-related stigma.
Through a research workshop focused on transforming mental wellbeing for people with diabetes, the Diabetes Research Steering Groups have identified that we need to know more about diabetes-related stigma and what we can do to reduce or prevent it.
Diabetes-related stigma refers to negative social attitudes towards diabetes that can lead to people affected by diabetes experiencing blame, stereotyping, rejection, exclusion, and/or discrimination. These negative attitudes can come from the media, family and friends, healthcare professionals, other people with diabetes, or the general public. Stigma often occurs due to a lack of understanding about the causes of diabetes and how it is managed, and can cause people with diabetes to feel misunderstood, embarrassed, isolated, ashamed, guilty, or distressed.
Some examples of the ways in which people experience diabetes-related stigma include:
- Being blamed for causing diabetes or its complications
- Being judged for eating certain foods
- Receiving stares or comments when taking medication, testing blood glucose, injecting insulin, etc.
- Feeling self-blame and shame for having diabetes
Stigma can affect a person’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing. They may feel they have to hide their condition and may be less willing to seek help from others. Research in this area has the potential to improve the quality of life for people living with diabetes by improving our understanding of diabetes-related stigma and identifying strategies to reduce or prevent it so that we can end blame and shame around diabetes.
Bekki Millar, a co-author of this call, said:
I have experienced a lot of stigmatising phrases and actions over the years because I have diabetes and it has hurt; it is unpleasant, unfair, unnecessary, and there is no place for it in society. Researching this area within the context of living with diabetes couldn’t be any more crucial in making society aware that just because someone lives with diabetes that is absolutely not what defines them.