With a little help from friends

`Friends for Ever', a support group jointly organised by MVDSC and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, works with juvenile diabetics. A report on some of the activities.

EVEN AS the country celebrates Children's Day, a number of children will be thankful to Fredrick Banting, who discovered insulin. For today is also World Diabetes Day.

Even though the number of children suffering from insulin dependent diabetes is estimated to be only around one per cent of the total diabetic population in the country, Dr V. Mohan of MV Diabetes Specialities Centre (MVDSC) feels their number is increasing.

"As of now, there might be only around 1,000 diabetic children in the city but the number is slowly on the rise," says Dr. Mohan.

Juvenile diabetes can occur to anyone, from a two-week-old baby to an eighteen-year-old adolescent. The social and psychological trauma, which these children undergo during their formative years, is immense. They are denied sweets, chocolates and ice creams enjoyed by other children of their age. This makes them feel they are abnormal.

At school, they are often ostracised by their classmates as they are suspected of being drug addicts, as they have to take their daily shots of insulin. (If they skip taking injections (generally three) even for a day they could fall into a coma and die).

Then there is the constant fear of developing a low sugar or high sugar reaction coupled with frequent blood tests and visits to the doctor. And finally the financial implications. As the cost of insulin runs to several hundreds of rupees per month, many parents ill-treat their children as they consider them a financial burden.

This is where `Friends for Ever', a support group jointly organised by MVDSC and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation comes into play. The programme brings together juvenile diabetics in the age group of 6 to 18 years and helps them in understanding their disease. "In group therapy, the members learn that they are not alone in experiencing the problems associated with diabetes," says Dr. Mohan. The focus is on individual interpretation of self in relation to others.

"Children are given an opportunity to express their intimate feelings, which they are not able to communicate even to their parents," says Dr. Latha Nithyanand, consultant psychologist, who is in charge of the group.

Confidentiality is key to the programme. "Group members are told not to discuss the information shared in the group with others. This helps in preserving the privacy of the information," says Dr. Nithyanand.

The members are also evaluated on the knowledge of their disease at the end of every three sessions.

As Dr. Mohan puts it, "The rationale behind this therapy is to show that with proper medication and motivation, you can lead a successful life like any other human being."

The classes are held every second Saturday between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.


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