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Treatment research

Improving mental health and blood glucose management in people with type 1 diabetes and depression

Dr Leslie Johnson will explore whether a collaborative care model that is effective for type 2 diabetes can be adapted for people with type 1.
Content last reviewed and updated: 10.11.2023
Dr Leslie Johnson

Dr Leslie Johnson

We understand the impact type 1 diabetes can have on the mental health of everyone connected to the condition. People with type 1 often experience depression or anxiety, which can lead to worsening mental and physical health. So, we have partnered with MQ Mental Health Research to co-fund Dr Leslie Johnson’s research project to provide better care for adults with type 1 and depression. She will do this by adapting and testing an evidence -based care model that aims to improve screening and testing for depression within routine diabetes care.

Depression and diabetes care model

The model Leslie will test involves interventions including support with self-management from a care coordinator who is not a doctor, decision support tools and specialist case reviews. The self-management support engages and empowers patients to take an active role in making decisions about their diabetes healthcare. While the tailored follow-up support supports people to maintain their self-management to help prevent depression and anxiety relapse. Overall, Leslie hopes the care model will improve quality of life.

People with type 2 diabetes have found that this care model substantially benefits their mental and physical health by reducing blood sugar levels and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Leslie will adapt the model to help adults living with type 1 and mental health conditions reduce their symptoms of depression and improve their blood glucose management.

Adapting the model for type 1

Leslie’s research team will gather feedback from people with type 1 and healthcare professionals about integrating mental health and diabetes care through focus group sessions and interviews. They will then form a community advisory board involving people with diabetes and healthcare leaders who will help them adapt the components of the care model for people with type 1. They will make sure the adapted model addresses any barriers that were identified from the feedback collected.

Testing the supportive care model

Leslie will recruit 80 adults with type 1 who have clinically significant symptoms of depression to take part in her study. Over 12 months, half the group will receive their usual care while the others receive the extra support in the care model. After a further six months of observation, the researchers will compare the differences between the two groups in depressive symptoms, anxiety scores, and HbA1c levels, measured at the start and after 12 and 18 months.

How will this research help people with type 1?

The results from this study will provide information on incorporating mental health care into routine diabetes clinics. Leslie hopes to be able to scale her project up to extend the depression and diabetes care model to more people with type 1. This will improve the quality of diabetes care by helping healthcare professionals detect depression and anxiety in people with type 1 and provide access to mental health treatment. Once integrated into healthcare systems, this care model will also help empower individuals with type 1 and mental health issues to improve their mental and physical health and overall quality of life.

Is JDRF funding any other research like this?

The latest JDRF Improving Lives Research Strategy sets out a roadmap for the future of psychosocial healthcare research for people with type 1. Our mission is to inform science, train healthcare professionals, increase access to psychosocial services, and improve the knowledge of people with type 1 through our programme of behavioural health and psychology research. We are funding Dr Emma Berry to develop a digital psychosocial wellbeing tool for people with type 1.

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