Training mental health peer support workers so that they can help people living with mental illness understand the risk of developing diabetes and learn prevention and self-management strategies is a success story that can be emulated across the country. That’s the message that CMHA Ontario’s Director of Knowledge Transfer, Scott Mitchell, delivered on behalf of project partners at the Canadian Diabetes Association national conference in Montreal on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.
Mitchell was invited to present during a session about diabetes and mental health. He spoke about the positive results of a two-year project to provide diabetes competency training to 80 mental health peer support workers. The project – which was a collaboration between CMHA Ontario, Ontario, the Ontario Peer Development Initiative , and the Provincial Consumer/Survivor LHIN Leads Network – significantly increased participants knowledge of diabetes. It also equipped those who received the training to become more confident in their peer support role and to use their knowledge to develop programs and share information with peers.
The importance of this training, and the rationale for this project, lies in the fact that people with serious mental illness have increased health problems. Diabetes, for example, is more prevalent among those living with serious mental illness and is also under-diagnosed and under-treated. Rates of diabetes are as many as four times greater than the general population.
Mitchell also noted that the project, which wrapped up in 2012, achieved primary goals, including:
- Increasing the skills of mental health peer support workers in providing support for the prevention and self-management of diabetes in the high-risk population of people living with a serious mental illness
- Increasing awareness in the diabetes community of the role mental health peer support workers can play in prevention and self-management support
Read more about the Diabetes and Mental Health Peer Support Project.
Read Mitchell’s presentation at the Canadian Diabetes Association national conference.