An Edith Cowan University (ECU) researcher has called for better mental health support for parents of children with type 1 diabetes.
Around one in five parents of children with type 1 diabetes experiences significant psychological distress, including depression and anxiety, as a result of managing their child’s condition around the clock.
More than 6,000 children in Australia are living with type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes and nursing expert Associate Professor Diana Arabiat analysed 33 studies examining parents’ psychological distress and found a lack of support was a common contributing factor.
“What we found is that parents are not receiving enough support from health care providers or schools to help with the significant pressures of caring for a child with a chronic illness,” Professor Arabiat said.
“Children with type 1 diabetes need around-the-clock care and monitoring, which takes a huge emotional, psychological, physical and financial toll on parents and caregivers.
“Many parents are suffering from stress and feelings of being overwhelmed right through to serious clinical depression and anxiety.
“This can severely impact their daily life and mental health and, in extreme cases, their ability to care for their child.”
A concept analysis of psychological distress in parents related to diabetes management in children and adolescents was published in the Journal for Specialists in Paediatric Nursing.
What parents need
Professor Arabiat said her research aimed to highlight the needs of parents and caregivers.
“In Australia, we’re very good at diagnosing and managing type 1 diabetes in children,” she said.
“What we need now is to better identify the signs of distress in parents of diabetic children and a more collaborative approach from GPs, nurses and other health care workers to support them in seeking the care they need.
“We also need better mental health support services and improved access to respite care to give parents a break and time to focus on their own wellbeing.”
Professor Arabiat also called for more diabetes education for teachers so they could support children and parents in their management of the condition.
“While there is generally a good level of awareness and support in schools for other common childhood conditions like allergies, diabetes has less visibility and therefore there is less education and support for teachers,” she said.
Professor Arabiat said a lack of support from schools sometimes led to parents leaving the workforce so they could actively monitor their child’s blood glucose tests and medication throughout the school day.
“This can lead to feelings of worry, stress and isolation and in some cases, parental burnout.”