A MONEYGLASS teenager has helped develop a new support network for young people with diabetes.
Lavena McStocker was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged just eight, and instantly she felt different to all her friends.
She said that she ‘struggled to cope’ after the diagnosis and didn’t want to talk about it with anyone.
“From the very start of my diagnosis I completely ignored it – I didn’t want to deal with it.” she said.
“I really put my head in the sand over it and didn’t talk to anyone about it.
“I didn’t want people to know about it.”
Lavena manages her diabetes through an insulin pump that injects insulin into her body numerous times a day.
But now, having taken part in a 'game-changing' wellbeing programme with charity Diabetes UK, the 14-year-old has developed a new positive approach to her condition.
“I’d say I was completely burned out from my diagnosis until the day I joined Our Lives, Our Voices.” she said.
“I was so negative about my diabetes. I thought ‘this has ruined my life completely’.
“ I never really talked to anyone else about my diabetes.
“I didn’t want to spend any more time talking about my diabetes when I lived with it.
“That’s why I was a bit anxious about joining the project but it wasn’t like talking to medical professionals, who would tell me were I was going wrong with my diabetes, it was a friendly point of view of how to cope with things for them to get better.”
According to statistics, due to a lack of information and peer support available, young people aged 13 to 25 years old currently living with diabetes are three times more likely to have psychological problems than those without the condition.
The Diabetes UK NI’s youth Wellbeing programme aims to address this and offer the emotional support for teenagers with type 1 diabetes that is clearly needed, as well as helping them learn the skills to confidently manage their condition.
Lavena credits her growth in confidence to her involvement in the youth scheme and became deeply involved in helping to develop the Wellbeing programme.
She is now sharing her experience of living with the condition to over one hundred student nurses, all thanks to the Our Lives, Our Voices project, and its Wellbeing programme.
“Adults don’t have the same perspective as a young person.” she said.
“They don’t necessarily know where they are coming from or how they are feeling.
“So, to have young people helping design the Wellbeing programme I thought was a great idea.
“It is designed by young people for young people so it’s dealing with issues that concern them.
“It has helped me improve my mental health and helps in the way you cope with your diabetes.
“ I’ve made new friends from it and we have a Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp group so we’re doing our best to stay connected.”
Lavena now hopes to help other young people when she’s older by pursuing a career in psychology.
“I’m thinking of getting into diabetes specialist psychology.” she said.
“When you live with diabetes it has such an impact on your mental wellbeing, but it is not talked about enough.
“I still think there is a lot of stigma still surrounding that aspect of diabetes. I hope to help break down that stigma.”
The Wellbeing programme started on Wednesday, February 24th at 7pm and is running for four weeks.
Each week there will be a different topic to discuss such as diabetes burnout and stigma.
Lavena added: “It gives you life skills for going forward.
“For two hours you can learn skills that will help you for the rest of your life.”