Mental Health + T1D as a College Student-Athlete
Your late teens and early 20s can be a time of big transitions—and those new experiences may feel even more intense if you are managing type 1 diabetes independently for the first time. Moving away from home, or starting college or a full-time job are intense experiences as it is.
If managing type 1 diabetes amid big life changes seems extra hard, you’re not alone.
Young men can struggle with mental health, too
Regardless of your age, managing type 1 diabetes can fluctuate between doable and really challenging. You may experience periods of feeling overwhelmed or resentful at the burden of dealing with it all. At the end of the day, taking care of your mental well-being is just as important as checking your blood sugars and taking your insulin.
And, caring for your mental well-being can positively impact your diabetes care.
Men and boys are too often socialized to internalize negative feelings and struggles, and as a result, are more likely to feel isolated and not seek mental health services or other types of support.
On top of entering the adult world—either at college or in the workplace—you may also need to find a new diabetes care team. Suddenly finding yourself without your usual support system may also prompt you to reevaluate your diabetes management plan.
In this series, young men living with type 1 diabetes discuss managing their health in college, in their professional lives, and their overall approach to self-care and mental health.
A support system helps Jaime Ferrer reach his goals
Jaime Ferrer, 19, is a freshman and baseball player at Florida State University. Since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3, he’s been surrounded by parents, siblings, friends and coaches who understand how to support him and his diabetes management.
Upon moving to college, Jaime sought out a similar support system—a fellow teammate also lives with T1D, he found an endocrinologist affiliated with the athletic program, and the Seminoles’ coaches and trainers understand that managing his diabetes plays is central to his athletic performance and training needs.
“Meeting other athletes who had type one diabetes, and seeing what they’ve done, made a big difference,” Jaime says. “I know that it’s not impossible for me to accomplish all my goals with type 1 diabetes.”
Adjusting to life away from home
Even though he’s surrounded by peers and coaches who understand diabetes and are proactive about supporting him through his training, college was an adjustment.
“I need to take a little bit more care of myself,” says Jamie. “At home, I knew I had my parents there to help me. But now that I’m alone, I’ve got to make sure that I have everything I need.”
“I need to be more responsible with what I eat and making sure that when I go to bed and I have as little insulin on board, or that I need need a high-carb food so I’ll have a good night’s rest.”
Finding people to lean on
Having a strong support network has helped him avoid diabetes burnout. He knows he can turn to his family, friends, coaches, trainers or teammates for support.
“It’s good to open up and look for help if you do need it. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about–– everyone needs help,” Jaime says. “Having that conversation really helps because there is a negative stigma, so having that conversation can be really helpful.”
Jamie also learned not to beat himself up for imperfect blood sugars.
“You might look at your numbers as a good or a bad number, but there’s never a truly bad number. It’s a number and you’ve got to make a change, you got to react to it if it’s high or if it’s low. Don’t get frustrated if you have a bad day with it, because it happens to everyone.”
Mental health tends to be a generalized term. There are many kinds of mental health challenges and concerns. Needs range in severity. If working with a professional will help to address your mental health needs, please seek out support.
Check out these resources on how to find mental health support:
- Mental Health Guide for Men + Boys with T1D
- Just Diagnosed with Diabetes? Why and How to Find Mental Health Support
- The T1D Guide for Mental Health Providers
- American Diabetes Association: Mental Health Provider Directory
- How Diabetes Impacts Your Mental Health
Editor’s note: This content was made possible in part with support from Lilly. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.