Barriers To Care: Stigma

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Diabetes stigma is real. People who do not have diabetes may not understand that it is commonly stigmatized, but people with diabetes are reminded of it every time we hear a diabetes joke about your chocolate cake, losing limbs, or being asked, “Should you be eating that?”

Spoiler: Yes. The answer is always, “Yes I should be eating this, and I may have more when I’m done with this,” (tone/ sarcasm). Fortunately, not everyone is as snarky as I can be when it comes to diabetes stigma.

While my attempt at humor helps me in coping with stigma, it doesn’t help to change anything. In fact, it’s counterproductive. In order to change the stigma surrounding diabetes, we have to be willing to take people seriously and educate them when they perpetuate stigma.

So what is the best way to accomplish a change in or elimination of stigma?


Diabetes Australia is way ahead of the game when it comes to ending diabetes stigma as a barrier to care. When I started this blog, I was blessed by the DOC presence of Renza via her blog Diabetogenic. Renza works with Diabetes Australia and has been actively involved with the Heads Up on Diabetes campaign.


This week, I attended a digital conference held by DiaTribe called d21 Lightning Talks: Stigma and the Stories We Tell. According to the website for the event, the idea for the talks stemmed from a TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called The Danger of a Single Story. It’s about 20 minutes, and I highly recommend it.

“The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


The only way perceptions will change is if we are willing to tell our transparent stories, correct misconceptions, and educate about the reality of living with diabetes.

How do you deal with diabetes stigma? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, or email me at

  1. Schabert, J., Browne, J.L., Mosely, K. et al. Social Stigma in Diabetes. Patient 6, 1–10 (2013).

An Introduction

Dealing with diabetes sucks. Whether you have been diagnosed with Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, are a caretaker or a medical professional, you will understand how diabetes complicates everyday life. It’s no wonder that people with diabetes are at an increased risk for mental health comorbidities and increased stress.

What is the purpose of this blog?

If you visit my “About” page, you’ll find my mission statement:

The mission of Mind on Diabetes by Sonja Cunningham is to create an online space where people with diabetes can learn and acquire fellowship, without judgment, in order to appreciate the silver linings of living with diabetes.

            The presence of judgement in diabetes care is severely underestimated. Judgement from healthcare providers is unavoidable. Blood glucose (BG) readings, HbA1C, and other standards of measure look at what we have done wrong rather than what we are doing right. Using an alternative mindset, I like to look at these standards of measurement as a source of education rather than a performance evaluation.

As an example, I was in college when I first saw an adult care endocrinologist. Her question to me in my first appointment was, “Why is your blood sugar high right now?” My primary observation was that she assumed there was an answer. Not every BG reading is caused by something that is directly identifiable. My next concern was the fact that it is simply not logical to check blood glucose in an appointment setting as it adds no value to the goal of the appointment, which should be continuous diabetes care. Not surprisingly, after a few appointments and a conversation about patient outcome expectations in her practice, I decided she was not the doctor for me.

The judgment from this doctor stuck with me for quite some time. I struggled with finding another adult care endocrinologist because I would enter the appointment on full defense. I spent 10 years in this cycle – finally locating a doctor with diabetes who treats me as a human being rather than a, “health performance outcome.”

If you want to hear more about my story, if you want to work on re-framing the role of diabetes in your life, if you’re interested in current research regarding mental health and diabetes, you are in the right place. Please consider commenting, sharing, and subscribing.

I will be creating groups and pages on other social media platforms. Look for these additions in my upcoming blog posts in order to connect, chat, and share with me, my followers, and other PWD who understand that diabetes is a team sport and you do not have to do it alone.