October 30, 2017

Diabetes can have a profound effect on someone’s life. Often, deeply rooted lifestyle choices must be altered for those with diabetes to remain healthy. With a majority of attention given to one’s diet and exercise routines, an aspect of health that has a major impact on one’s quality of life is largely forgotten: mental health.

“It is well documented that people who are diagnosed with diabetes are more likely to experience depression and psychosis than in patients not diagnosed with diabetes,” said Lucinda Nurre, MS, LPC, a counselor who volunteers for the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

Symptoms from both diabetes and depression, when untreated, can worsen both conditions. For example, depression can lead to poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking and unhealthy eating, which increases diabetes symptoms.

Sometimes those with diabetes can feel isolated from loved ones because they feel they are unable to participate in social activities in the same way as before their diagnosis.

“Clients with diabetes are faced with cultural issues that are oftentimes a barrier to success,” said Nurre. “Cultural issues like food, tradition and family support are difficult to break and/or change because they are deep-seated in our lives.”

Another issue that complicates balancing healthy choices to fight diabetes is the stigma that surrounds mental health.

“I find the mental health stigma is oftentimes more prevalent with those clients that have diabetes,” Nurre said. “In our community, Hispanics are the majority of clients diagnosed with diabetes and, culturally, Hispanics do not seek help for mental health counseling outside of their family and/or church. 

“Additionally, those diabetes patients with a lower socioeconomic status do not tend to seek counseling as there are basic needs, such as food, shelter and employment that must be met first before focusing on the higher need of mental health.”

Diabetes can make life more difficult when coupled with mental health issues, such as depression. But those who live with diabetes and depression don’t have to suffer alone. Attending support groups, cooking demonstrations and one-on-one counseling can make a world of difference for one’s health, mentally and physically.

Contact the Coastal Bend Health Education Center for information on free classes and counseling services. The phone numbers are 1-866-524-1408 and 361-561-8640.

-Les D. Cockrell