Associate Professor Judith Proudfoot
For National Diabetes Week, Australian Rotary Health (ARH) throws back to a research project that has contributed to a successful program used now, called myCompass. This program also contains a module to help young people with Type 1 Diabetes manage their mental health.
From 2014-2015, ARH awarded a Mental Health Research Grant to Associate Professor Judith Proudfoot from the Black Dog Institute to help improve mental wellbeing and reduce distress in adolescents and young adults with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).
The initial aim of this research program was to evaluate the effectiveness of an online self-help cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) program, called myCompass, in young people with T1D with at least mild levels of psychological distress.
The myCompass diabetes module can be accessed via a smartphone and offers an opportunity for patients to help themselves when the demands of the disease become overwhelming. The module is comprised of three short interactive sessions with tasks to complete outside of sessions. It also contains an automated notification system that can include diabetes-specific reminders.
People with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to experience depression than the general population. A/Prof Proudfoot says distress can result in poor diabetes management and consequent physical complications.
“Poor emotional health compromises diabetes care and management and increases the risk of potentially fatal short- and long-term diabetes complications. There is a need, therefore, to enhance diabetes management and overall quality of life for young diabetes patients by increasing access to effective psychological and emotional support services,” she said.
Although there were difficulties with recruitment and only 62 participants were involved in the trial, post-intervention and follow-up data showed significant improvement in mental health self-efficacy for myCompass users compared to those in the placebo intervention condition.
The data also confirmed the relationship between depressive symptoms, diabetes-related distress and increased functional impairment in young people with diabetes.
In addition to this, A/Prof Proudfoot and her team interviewed 31 young people with T1D about their experiences with mental health. The findings demonstrated a need to better educate the community and health professionals about the link between mental health issues and T1D.
“Many young people reported being unaware of the increased risk of mental health issues associated with T1D. They also reported being reluctant to identify themselves as diabetic and/or as struggling emotionally,” A/Prof Proudfoot said.
“Our findings suggest that effective engagement with young people may require careful consideration of young people’s conceptualisation of the relationship between diabetes and emotional distress.”
A/Prof Proudfoot’s team were the first research group to attempt an examination of the effectiveness of a generic Internet-delivered self-help intervention for reducing mental health symptoms and improving mental well-being in this vulnerable patient group.
Further research has since been conducted to support myCompass as an effective online intervention for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also be used by young people without diabetes.
Media contact: Jessica Cooper – firstname.lastname@example.org
First published 6th June, 2022