In a recent survey presented at Friends for Life® (an annual conference for families with type 1 diabetes, sponsored in part by Lilly Diabetes), a staggering 83 percent of parents of children with type 1 diabetes said they believe there’s a social stigma around the disease. While you can’t take away your child’s diabetes, you can help stamp out judgment and ignorance just by the way you care for your child every day. Here are five things you can do now to reduce stigma and make living with diabetes a little easier for all.
Embrace All Differences
“Every single person is different, and no single person is perfect. Everyone has something about themselves which is a challenge, whether it’s a physical challenge that we can see or a hidden one that we can’t. When we, as adults, accept this and teach this to our children, and they to their children, we stop viewing people as ‘different’ – because everyone is.”
—Laura Billetdeaux, vice president of education and programs for Children with Diabetes®
Stop Labeling Type 2 Diabetes as the Bad Guy
“I think the majority of the stigma attached to diabetes finds its roots in widespread misunderstanding about type 2 diabetes, and a tendency to blame people who have type 2 because it’s considered a ‘lifestyle disease.’ Blaming and shaming people with type 2 hurts everyone with diabetes. I believe the way to address this is for people with all types to be open and willing to talk about their diabetes and to be publicly adamant that no one with diabetes is to blame for their condition.”
—Emily Coles, head of communities at Diabetes Hands Foundation
“Our social media networks are a great opportunity for parents of children with diabetes (and all people with diabetes) to help normalize the condition. Sharing photos and descriptions of our children and our families’ lives is a concrete way to show those we are connected to that living life with diabetes is really no different and just as filled with happy moments. Sharing about the condition is also a way to invite an open and positive dialogue with our friends and family.”
—Ellen Bradley-Windell, L.C.S.W., family and child therapist in private practice in Valencia, Calif., and co-founder of Valencia Relationship Institute
Just Do One Thing
“A celebrity or a star sharing the unfortunate news of themselves or their child being diagnosed with diabetes will not instantly better the understanding of diabetes in the world around us. As great as they all are to lend their name and talents to this cause, it will take much more. If all the people in this world (okay that is a tad optimistic; let’s say 25 percent of those) who have diabetes or a loved one with diabetes did just one thing a month or even a year to educate the world about diabetes, we would advance the cause greatly.”
—Tom Karlya, vice president of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and blogger at Diabetesdad.org
Check in Public
“Most of the time, a stigma originates from misunderstanding. I find that the best way to prevent (or eliminate) a stigma is through information and education. Tell those around you about diabetes. Teach them what it is and show them what you do to manage it. And do so with pride! It takes a special person to succeed in life while tending to a 24/7 chronic condition like diabetes.”
—Gary Scheiner M.S, C.D.E., owner and clinical director of Integrated Diabetes Services, L.L.C. in Wynnewood, Pa., and 2014 American Academy of Diabetes Educators (AADE) Diabetes Educator of the Year
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
Friends for Life and Children with Diabetes are registered trademarks of T-1 Today, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.