In a pilot study presented at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting & Exhibition yesterday, researchers showed that mental health coaching has not only the capacity to reduce depressive symptoms in patients but to help lower the concentration of glucose in the blood for those diagnosed with depression and diabetes.
According to the article, which was republished on Science Daily, many people diagnosed with diabetes also suffer from depression, which oftentimes saps a patient’s ability to maintain a high level of self-care. Self-care includes activities such as monitoring of symptoms, staying active, eating healthily, and taking medication, four areas crucial for managing diabetes.
Diabetes educators developed a program to provide mental health coaching for those who suffered from depression and diabetes. The program took place in a rural portion of North Carolina, where the rate of diabetes (nearly 16 percent) was higher than the national rate (10 percent) and depression afflicted 30 percent of the population.
In the study, 182 patients with Type 2 diabetes received mental health coaching for an average of three visits. The mental health coach gave the patients a questionnaire that rated them on their anxiety and depression levels, and then helped the patients find tools to best address the stressors and challenges in their lives. The mental health coach then reassessed the anxiety and depression levels of the patients at the end of the period.
After three months, patient scores for anxiety and depression decreased on average 49 percent. Furthermore, A1C, which measures glucose in the blood, decreased from 8.8 percent to 7.7 percent. All patients also received diabetes education to help them learn how to manage their disease and be as healthy as possible.
“The program was to be piloted for a two year period but has been so powerful, we have continued it,” said Melissa Herman, RD, certified diabetes educator and program director of the Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Pinehurst, N.C. “While healthy coping is an essential part of diabetes education, mental health coaching takes it to another level for people who struggle with depression. Those who had mental health coaching said it was life-changing, life-saving and helped them feel better and happier than they had in a long time.”
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