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Mental health issues common for people with diabetes

WJAC is working in partnership with our parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, to keep you informed about important health matters. (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

WJAC is working in partnership with our parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, to keep you informed about important health matters.

For the 29 million Americans living with diabetes, it's also common to experience mental health issues.

As Michelle Marsh explains, a new effort is underway to increase awareness about this often unrecognized connection to get patients the help they need.

From monitoring her blood sugar levels to inspecting every food label, Emily Viall says managing her Type 1 diabetes is a never-ending and overwhelming process.

And that's not all she's faced since being diagnosed at age 14.

"I had body image issues, anxiety, depression,” Viall said. “All of this coincided to make a perfect storm."

It turns out, Viall's mental health issues aren't unusual for people with diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are 20 percent more likely to have anxiety and twice as likely to have depression.

And a study published in the BMJ found female patients between 12 to 19 years old with Type 1 diabetes are 2.4 times more likely to have an eating disorder.

Dr. William Cefalu says doctors often overlook these issues, leading to additional stress on diabetes patients.

"This may impair their ability to manage the disease,” Cefalu said. “If you don't manage your disease appropriately, it will lead to complications."

So the American Diabetes Association has launched a new training program to increase awareness and improve treatment.

"We've partnered with the American Psychological Association to form a continuum medical education program to help mental health providers understand the complexities of the disease," Cefalu said. "This is as much part of the treatment as providing medication or having an adequate diet or getting enough activity."

"I'm doing really well," Viall said.

Viall now goes to a therapist and psychiatrist, which she says has helped her get her anxiety and depression under good control. And as a diabetes nurse educator herself, she

encourages patients to seek the psychosocial treatment they need, too.

"I'm a big proponent of therapy, and I think the medications certainly helped," Viall said.

So far, 120 mental health providers have gone through this new training.

They'll be listed in a new registry coming out in January.

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