Especially being a teen with type 1 diabetes. Teenagers are a group particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, so how does adding a chronic health condition affect this? What is JDRF doing to help parents and their teens smooth the transition into adulthood?
Right now, there are nearly 10,000 Australian teenagers and pre-teens facing the daily challenges of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Although T1D can be diagnosed at any age, the peak age for new diagnoses is at 10–14 years.
The general population of teenagers is an at-risk group for mental health concerns, with top concerns linked to coping with stress, school or study problems and body image.
One in five young Australians meet criteria for a probable serious mental illness. With the added pressure of exams in Year 12, 40% of students in their final year reported symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress that fall outside normal ranges.
Teens with T1D who took part in the MILES Youth Study reported much higher rates of moderate to severe depressive symptoms than a general population survey of Australian youth. Insights from the survey showed that young people with T1D were most often distressed about: friends or family not understanding how difficult living with diabetes can be; worries about their weight; and becoming hypoglycaemic (low blood glucose). This obviously weighs on top of what teens already have to deal with.
What resources are available for teens?
These statistics highlighted an alarming need for more support and services for our youth with T1D. In response, we’ve launched a free Teen Toolkit for parents of teens and preteens with T1D. This resource is designed to help parents build positive behaviours and coping mechanisms within their teens. It covers all the tricky to navigate areas of growing up, including learning to drive, alcohol, puberty and exams. Several hundred parents and carers of teens have already downloaded the Teen Toolkit in its first few weeks.
For the teens themselves, we have a well-established closed Facebook support group – T1D Connect (14-24). Young people aged 14-24 can come together in this group to connect, share and ask questions about all things T1D. The group is parent-free, so it’s a no judgement zone where teens can interact freely. It’s also a safe space with trained moderators who live with T1D and can step in where necessary or escalate concerns.
We hope through this group that we can reduce the level of isolation that these teens feel, and connect them to their peers who understand what it’s like to live with T1D.
The group has more than 600 members from around Australia.
- AIHW – Incidence of insulin-treated diabetes in Australia 2014
- Diabetes MILES Youth Study 2014 Survey Report, Diabetes Victoria
- Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2017