The Buddy Project Helpline: Peer Support for People with Diabetes
Editor’s Note: We have a simple goal: tap into the power of the global diabetes community to save lives. Learn more about what you can do as a person with diabetes to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19 until we’re all safe.
COVID-19 has taught us many things – among them, the need for and power of connection, particularly in the diabetes community. The Blue Circle Buddy Project Helpline was born out of lockdown and is India’s first psychosocial diabetes and mental health peer support helpline exclusively for people with diabetes and their families.
Volunteer-led, app based, multilingual, and free, the Helpline is run by people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and caregivers who have been trained to provide basic psychosocial and diabetes support (training was done via the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy, Indian Law Society, Pune and Chellaram Diabetes Institute, Pune).
If you are looking for peer support, the project’s 12 volunteers are fluent in 9 languages – English, Hindi, Dutch, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil and Punjabi. Find more information on the helpline, including diabuddy (volunteer) profiles, and videos in English and Hindi explaining how to schedule a call on the helpline through the app. The Blue Circle Diabetes mobile app is available on Android or on iOS.
The Helpline is run by the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, founded and directed by Nupur Lalvani, a Certified Diabetes Educator and Certified Pump Trainer. The organization is a volunteer-led peer support non-profit with thousands of members across India and online. Nupur, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 8, wanted to create a safe space to normalize diabetes, engage in a dialogue about the intricacies of living with diabetes, and educate and empower the larger community.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India has over 77 million people with diabetes and is expected to cross 98 million by 2030. However, even with such large numbers, not enough money is invested in the South East Asia region to support the population’s health – an IDF report shows that the region experiences the second lowest expenditures in health of all IDF regions. This likely contributes to the fact that over half of people with diabetes in India are undiagnosed, leading to 1.2 million deaths in the IDF SEA Region in 2019.
According to Nupur and the organization’s leadership, living with diabetes in India comes with its own set of social, cultural, financial and medical challenges that are very unique. Of course this is alongside what is true across the world – the mental burden of living with diabetes is often overlooked in trying to keep up with the physical treatment. The occurrence of depression is 2-3 times higher in people living with diabetes, and it is estimated that four out of five people with serious mental disorders living in low and middle income countries do not receive the mental health services that they need.
This is exactly the reason the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation and its Buddy Project Helpline exists – their community leaders started receiving frantic calls of panic and anxiety from members of the community soon after lockdown was announced in India. People were unsure if they would get access to life saving medication, or if they would lose their sources of livelihood. They were worried about taking care of their diabetes, about contracting COVID-19, about their family members, and were dealing with very high levels of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. This unprecedented situation spurred Nupur and her colleagues to put their heads together to create the Buddy Project Helpline.
While the Helpline is the newest project for the foundation amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, they also have a multitude of other projects and ways to get involved, like Project Gaia (a women’s and girl’s empowerment initiative), school and corporate diabetes awareness programs, workshops and meetups, and more. You can learn all about the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation by browsing their website, utilizing the app (Android or iOS), or connecting on Facebook (page or group), Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
A quick guide on how to use the Buddy Project helpline:
– Open the Blue Circle Diabetes app (on Android or iOS)
– Go to Buddy Project
– Go to Schedule tab
– Pick a buddy of your choice
– Schedule a call. Once you schedule you’ll see it under the ‘Meetings’ tab and also receive a confirmation email from Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation with an option to add a reminder to your calendar.
– 10 minutes prior to the call, you’ll receive an app notification/reminder. To join the call, open the app, go to ‘Buddy Project’ & under the ‘Meetings’ tab, press the red ‘Join’ button (the video is off by default, you can switch it on if you like).
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