Saturday, the 22nd of September was a special day for all young adults with type 2 diabetes. DA–Vic held their first information session for us! Rightly named Generation t2, this was the first of many events aimed at young adults (aged 18-39 years young) living with type 2 diabetes. This particular session was presented by the very lovely Dr. Jessica Browne from the ACBRD research team and a range of topics was covered; from myths regarding type 2 diabetes to various (but limited) research findings in the area.
Yet, like a small child, the thing that grabbed my attention was the interactive use of clickers to allow audience members to answer questions anonymously. The answers showed that we all have similar concerns and face similar issues when it comes to our diabetes. We’re not alone! At one point, 100 per cent of the audience polled that it was difficult to find relevant information services; we all shared a giggle at this result. But were we surprised? No! Not at all. This just highlights the gap in appropriate programs and services accessible to young adults with type 2, which are also relevant to their age group. Many nodded emphatically that support groups held in the early afternoons were not ideal for young adults who have jobs, family or other commitments. Furthermore, if we did attend one of these support groups, it would be highly likely that we would be the youngest person there and the generation gap would certainly be starkly emphasised.
Another huge thing that Jess touched on was the mental health of young adults with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes healthcare is largely focused on clinical aspects. Each visit to the doctors, if it’s not about the HbA1c, it will be about cholesterol levels or something similar. But how often do they ask “how are you coping”? Not often I would say! And this doesn’t only apply to young adults with type 2. This is often the case for all people living with diabetes. Jess told us about several studies which look at diabetes related stress and emotional wellbeing. I believe at one point it was mentioned that diabetes and depression are inextricably linked! Yet, there are few, if any, tailored services for young adults with diabetes and impaired physical and/or psychological health. Outrageous! Understandably, there may be a lack of motivation and time. But with all the stigma around type 2 diabetes, I can empathise with those who want to be a “closet type 2″. And as I touched on earlier, services and programs need to be held outside work hours in order to connect with the young adult age group.
As Jess said in closing, if we want things to change, we have to speak up and stand up for ourselves. We need more research to be done in this area to support funding for these services as well as to educate the general public to reduce the stigma associated with diabetes in general. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease, such as diabetes, is difficult enough to handle, no one needs additional judgement from health professionals or the public. All in all it was a very exciting start to Generation t2, and those clickers made it all the more enjoyable!
Ashley Ng, of Caufield, is 22 years young. She is currently halfway through her honours year at Deakin University looking at the effects of nutritional supplementation in the healing of diabetic foot ulcers. Ashley also works at the university as an academic support worker and student ambassador on the side. In her spare time (of which she has little) she enjoys driving out to national parks for walks and taking part in a variety of sports. She also plays clarinet in the Western Region Concert Band. Ashley was diagnosed with type 2 (MODY) diabetes in 2009.
Oh, and did we mention her own rocking blog?
Generation t2 is Diabetes Australia-Vic’s new program of resources and events specifically tailored to meet the needs of young adults (aged 18 – 39). Historically, type 2 diabetes has been understood as a condition affecting middle-aged or older adults, and its emergence in younger people is a relatively new phenomenon. However type 2 diabetes is a growing problem among younger people with more than 5,300 younger adults living with type 2 diabetes in Victoria alone. As most existing type 2 diabetes care and support services have not been designed to meet the needs of younger adults, Generation t2 will develop a new range of services to address the unique experiences, challenges, care and support needs of young adults with type 2 diabetes.
For further information on Generation t2 contact email@example.com