Peer Support Program
JDRF’s Peer Support Program is a free volunteer network that connects people who have been affected by type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Whether you, your child or another family member has received a T1D diagnosis, being connected with a peer support mentor will give you the opportunity to talk to someone who has been there, and who can offer lots of practical tips and advice.
This program is for parents of children living with T1D, and adults living with T1D. It’s important to note that while a mentor is available for support, he/she cannot provide any medical advice.
To be put in touch with a mentor, just fill out the form below.
If you would like learn how you can become a mentor yourself, fill out the form here.
A helping hand from someone who understands
Kindred spirits are very hard to come by, but you can find one through JDRF. It will make a world of difference knowing that there is someone out there who knows exactly what you are going through.
– Yvette, mother of Sienna, diagnosed at age 2
Meet some of our mentors
Sally Wooden describes the first months after her daughter Riley’s T1D diagnosis as the worst in her life. Diagnosed with T1D at 8 years old, Riley, like many others, was also diagnosed with a secondary autoimmune disease a month later. In her case it was coeliac disease. As a parent, Sally was grieving the loss of a carefree life for her child and trying to learn the complexities of T1D whilst enduring continuous sleepless nights. She was emotional and exhausted.
A couple of months after diagnosis, Sally realised that the best way to support her family would be to connect with other families more experienced with T1D and found a family after attending the JDRF One Walk. “They held our hands, gave us guidance and showed us that we would get on top of this and that we would be OK. They are still our dear friends today,” Sally shares. Three years post diagnosis, Sally reflected on how well Riley was managing to live with her T1D, looked back at how far they had come and how much they had learned. She suggested to Riley that it was time they helped others.
Sally and Riley have now been peer support mentors to more than 15 families and show no signs of slowing down.
It’s so important for newly diagnosed families to have a support system and know they can call someone, even if they don’t need to. I’m honoured I can provide that very worthwhile comfort for a family in those dark post diagnosis months.
– Sally Woden
“I was 21 years old and travelling through Africa with my brother visiting our extended family when I first started getting symptoms of type 1 diabetes. I didn’t know what was happening, and assumed my constant insatiable thirst was due to the hot weather. Because we had to boil the water in Africa before drinking it, we had lots of bottles of boiled water in the fridge. I ended up drinking it all, and accidentally even drank my Grandma’s heart medication without realising!
“It wasn’t until I got back home and saw a doctor for a blood test that I was told I had Type 1 Diabetes. I’d already lost a lot of weight by that stage and was looking very sickly. I couldn’t believe the diagnosis – without any family history, I couldn’t understand how I could have the disease. I got really angry and emotional, especially when I started to think about what might have to change in my life from that point forward. My family were incredibly upset and worried as well, especially as they didn’t know what the impact on me would be like in the long-term.
“Having type 1 diabetes has definitely altered my outlook on life and opened my eyes. I wish I had been told early on that control of diabetes can be an illusion much of the time. As much as I try to manage type 1 diabetes, things will always happen that will be out of my control and will affect my levels. Things aren’t perfect all the time, and it’s taken a while for me to accept that.
“Despite all this, I still manage to get out and travel widely. It showed me that living a restricted life out of fear that something may go wrong is not the way to be.”
While type 1 diabetes does involve a lot of careful planning and responsibility, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do the things that you want to do. It just means that we have to go about it in a different way.
“I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy which then returned for my second and third pregnancies. At my follow-up appointment after I gave birth to my third child (who also has type 1 diabetes), my tests showed elevated glucose levels. Further tests confirmed a positive result for T1D-related antibodies. I was classed as an evolving T1, also known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), and am now on regular daily insulin injections.
“The official diagnosis was devastating. When I had gestational diabetes, I was very strict with my diet and took comfort in knowing that I wouldn’t have it anymore after I gave birth. To realise that I would actually have type 1 diabetes forever, and that insulin injections would become a daily occurrence was shattering. I felt disheartened, and very angry.
“Luckily, my husband was incredibly supportive. Friends and family were shocked and upset for me. They were supportive as well but admitted that they really didn’t know anything about type 1 diabetes and how it affects my day-to-day life.
“Since diagnosis, I’ve had a career change. Where I was once working as a medical scientist, I’ve now started up my own business and contribute a percentage of my profits to JDRF. JDRF were the first organisation to reach out to me and my family when my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I want to see a cure and better management for all people with type 1 diabetes, and I believe that JDRF can help us. Having type 1 diabetes has definitely inspired my passion project!”
I wish that someone had told me when I was diagnosed that it was possible to live with type 1 diabetes and be happy, and that I would find a way to work through the anger and sadness and turn type 1 diabetes into a positive. I feel more focused and driven and having type 1 diabetes has helped me realise what I want to achieve in my life.
“My family and I had no experience with type 1 diabetes so we were all slow to pick up on all the symptoms that I was showing at the age of 15. It wasn’t until a teacher at my school mentioned something to my mum that she realised I might need to go and see a doctor. Diagnosis was a complete shock, but a relief at the same time as I started feeling better again after having felt awful for ages.
“Luckily, my family and friends were incredibly supportive right from the start, with my school friends even attending a session with my diabetes educator to help me feel supported and safe. I went on a school camp very soon after diagnosis, and I think diving straight back into life helped me feel like type 1 diabetes wouldn’t hold me back from doing whatever I wanted.
“I really try not to let type 1 diabetes become an impediment to anything I want to do. While managing type 1 diabetes definitely involves a lot of preparation and forward thinking, it’s not a deal-breaker. It might sometimes feel as though I am holding down two full-time jobs – my regular job and my job of looking after my health. However, I believe that if you are properly prepared it is possible to do pretty much anything you decide you want to do.”
To others living with type 1 diabetes, I will reiterate something I was told by my diabetes educator – the internet is full of information and misinformation about diabetes. There is a lot of inaccurate information out there, and I have found that reading that sort of stuff can get me quite down. Concentrate on yourself, and your own diabetes, not what others say. Living with diabetes is a very personal journey, what works for some people in the management of their diabetes won’t work for others.
“I was diagnosed during my first year of university. After a few weeks of drinking over four litres of water a day, feeling constantly tired and losing weight, I decided to see my GP who sent me off to the local hospital.
“My friends and family were very supportive and accommodating. In some respects, having type 1 diabetes has allowed me to realise how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life.
“Surprisingly, I wasn’t too phased by the old school syringes, counting carbs and new lifestyle in my first year of being diagnosed. It wasn’t about two years after diagnosis that the reality set in – type 1 diabetes wasn’t going away, and I was going to have it for life! This set me on a path of exploring how to best manage my condition through herbs, nutrition, and lifestyle changes. I even undertook a career change from the world of finance to naturopathy in an attempt to be able to assist others with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”