Meet Keely Bebbington. The clinical psychologist recently joined the Children’s Diabetes Centre as the McCusker Research Fellow in Type 1 Diabetes — a Fellowship that was established in response to the need for a dedicated focus on the mental health and wellbeing of young people with Type 1 Diabetes and their families.
“There is evidence that young people with Type 1 Diabetes are more likely than their healthy peers to develop mental health difficulties, including anxiety, depression, eating and substance use disorders,” Dr Bebbington said.
“However, what is currently lacking is an understanding of who is most at-risk and how we can intervene early to reduce the mental health burden of Type 1 Diabetes.”
Thanks to the Fellowship, this much-needed area of research will now be expanded and driven forward.
“In consultation with clinicians, other researchers and the community we are in the process of identifying the research priorities in regards to the mental health and wellbeing of young people with Type 1 Diabetes and their families,” Dr Bebbington said.
“Feedback from a consumer reference group, held late last year, highlighted the importance of understanding the relationship between metabolic control and the emotional state of young people with Type 1 Diabetes.
“Related to this, we have just completed data collection for a study that explores how moment-to-moment fluctuations in blood glucose relate to changes in mood, and vice-versa.”
In addition, Dr Bebbington and her team have identified the adjustment to diagnosis and the transition to adulthood as critical time points in the journey of young people with Type 1 Diabetes. “We are currently developing a program of research aimed at identifying the risk factors for poor adjustment and how best to support young people and their families through these challenging periods,” she said.
“One focus of this research will be on exploring the coping styles of parents and young people with Type 1 Diabetes to determine the most adaptive coping styles for managing both the physical burden and psychosocial burden of Type 1 Diabetes.
“In the future we hope to develop interventions aimed to fostering adaptive coping in young people with Type 1 Diabetes and their families.”
Another key focus is to better understand the impact of new technologies on the management of Type 1 Diabetes.
“The last decade has seen rapid advancements in diabetes management technologies and it is vital to understand how young people and their families interact with this technology in order to maximise its potential to ease the burden of Type 1 Diabetes,” Dr Bebbington said.
Dr Bebbington said she was extremely grateful to the McCusker Charitable Foundation for funding the Fellowship which would benefit Western Australia’s diabetes community.
“The security provided by a two-year appointment enables me to work towards building a strong track record of research in the field and to attract independent funding to support this research into the future,” she said.
Children’s Diabetes Centre co-director Professor Liz Davis said fellowships were a great way to address an area of research that warranted more attention.
“Fellowships give us the capacity to spearhead new research that results in better outcomes for WA’s diabetes community,” she said. “They truly are a great investment.”