Hear what our Mental Health Practitioner, Clair Piper, has to say about mental health for those living with diabetes and the support services available through NEEDS:
I trained to be a Mental Health Nurse back in 2008 and have worked in a variety of settings including mental health inpatient wards and within the community setting. I began my career at NEEDS in September 2019 and since joining the team, I have completed a postgraduate level course in Advanced Diabetes Management.
The diabetes team identified a need for a Mental Health Practitioner to ensure there was support available for those living with diabetes who were experiencing emotional toil as a result of their diagnosis. I work closely with the rest of the team with the aim of helping people to optimise their diabetes management and self-care.
- Feeling low in mood
- Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated or diabetes distress
- Anxiety – particularly around diabetes care, the fear of having a hypo, the use of needles etc.
- Issues with diet and weight management
- Overdosing on insulin – those who are frequent A&E attenders
- Support for those who are disengaged – for example, their diabetes control is poor, therefore there is a need to explore the issues around what is making things difficult for them
- Patients on FreeStyle Libre for psychological reasons
- Those who are in need of further assessment in regards to their mental health as time is limited during Diabetes Specialist Nurse appointments
- Those who do not fit into Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Health in Mind or secondary care mental health services criteria
My role includes:
- Signposting people to IAPT Health in Mind, however you can also self-refer directly without seeing me
- Signposting to other agencies who can offer support. I have created a resource folder which includes details of clubs and activities that run in the local area, as well as things like housing support and benefit scheme support.
- Offering support for a set amount of time, depending on individual need
- Support specific to those who live with diabetes e.g. help with accepting the diagnosis, improving mood, encouraging the act of setting goals.
- Assessing the risk, referring to secondary care mental health services when neccesary.
- Working with the person to draw on past experiences e.g. looking at what worked previously and what hasn’t worked in the past to provide advice specific to that individual.
- Type 1 Pathway – all newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetics will be referred to myself. I will then contact them in a month’s time to review their wellbeing and to provide any required support. Another review will take place after 6 months.
The vital part of my role as Mental Health Practitioner is to be an advocate for all of our patients. It is important to develop rapport with each person so that they feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings. I am all about solving problems based on what has and hasn’t worked for an individual in the past. It is so important to encourage hope and better understand feelings of anxiety in those living with diabetes.
Before our world turned upside due to the coronavirus, I was offering appointment slots for my mental health clinic which happens in Colchester and Clacton on a weekly basis. Slots tend to be between 45 minutes to an hour long and the number of sessions very much depends on how much support you feel you need.
Personally, I have found that just being given the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about how you feel is sometimes all you need. I also hope that after having a first appointment, just knowing that emotional support is available is reassuring. I also offer telephone consultations for those who would feel comfortable doing it remotely.
Part of my role also involves linking in with wider mental health services, upskilling clinicians about mental health, and offering specialist support for those living with diabetes who may have complex, severe or enduring mental health conditions.
I am also keen to continually review the service I provide to find out what support those with diabetes would like or would benefit from. For example, I would be interested to know if there is any interest in starting peer support groups to explore topics such as mindfulness, sleep hygiene, how to manage low mood or overcoming needle phobias.
If you have any questions, queries or suggestions, please contact NEEDS by sending us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by contacting us on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.
Mental Health Practitioner
North East Essex Diabetes Service (NEEDS)