Mental Health Coaching Eases Diabetes, Depression

August 6, 2014

Anxiety was decreased and blood sugar levels were lowered in this pilot study.

Mental health coaching significantly eased depression and reduced blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) in a pilot study conducted in a rural, low-income area where the rate of disease is high.

The study is being presented today at AADE14, the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting & Exhibition, which runs August 6-9 in Orlando.

DM educators developed a program to identify and provide resources for battling depression in patients with DM in central North Carolina, an area in which nearly 16% of the population has DM (compared with 10% of the national population); 30% of the patients had depression and 65% lived below the poverty level. Patients with a new diagnosis of DM were referred to a DM educator; those identified as having depression received mental health coaching.

In the study, 182 patients with type 2 DM received mental health coaching, including an average of 3 visits in which the coach helped them find tools to best address stressors and challenges in their lives. The mental health coach used the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ9) to measure anxiety and depression scores before and after intervention; scores decreased by 49%, on average, after 3 months.  A1C levels decreased, on average, from 8.8% to 7.7%.

“While healthy coping is an essential part of diabetes education, mental health coaching takes it to another level for people who struggle with depression,” said Melissa Herman, RD, certified diabetes educator and program director of the Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Pinehurst, North Carolina. “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.”

All patients also received DM education to help them learn how to manage their disease and be as healthy as possible by focusing on the following AADE7TM Self-Care Behaviors: (1) healthy eating, (2) being active, (3) monitoring, (4) taking medication, (5) problem solving, (6) healthy coping, and (7) reducing risks.

A significant number of patients who have DM experience depression, which can interfere with their ability to participate in self-care activities, it was noted.