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19th May 2015

Has your diabetic kid been bullied?

They’ve been called ‘fat’, ‘lazy’, and even labelled as ‘drug addicts’. Kids living with diabetes can be subjected to bullying and discrimination leaving them feeling depressed and isolated.

Children – and sometimes their parents – are made to feel guilty or ashamed of diabetes which can make it difficult to manage the disease.

In this short clip, Laura explains how she was bullied for wearing an insulin pump without which she can suffer serious health problems.


And this is just the beginning. For Jade, classroom name-calling made it awkward for her to find a suitable place to inject her insulin. Another child told her injecting insulin in class was ‘disgusting’ and that she should do it in the toilet.

‘They want you to hide away like it’s your fault. It isn’t – I didn’t ask for this…It made me feel quite alone.’

For parents, this can be heart-breaking. And, when children develop type II diabetes which is commonly linked with being overweight, there can be a profound sense of guilt.

Wrong on the double

Adults with diabetes suffer discrimination too – in the workplace, in social settings, even in hospitals.

In this hugely popular TED talk, Peter Attia – a surgeon – makes an emotional confession. He describes how he felt about an overweight patient who needed to have her leg amputated.

Deep down, he knows that he judged the patient, treated her with contempt and offered her less compassion than he would normally offer someone in his care.

But after being diagnosed with diabetes himself and undertaking intensive research on this topic, he came to question many of the assumptions which underpin society’s view of the link between obesity and diabetes.

What if, he wondered, the insulin-resistance we see with diabetes is actually a symptom of a much deeper metabolic syndrome? He is devoting his career to answering that question.

In the meantime, he has an apology for the woman he judged all those years ago before he had first-hand experience of diabetes (go to 13m 30 seconds). ‘As a doctor I delivered the best clinical care I could but as a human being, I let you down…If you’re watching this now, I hope you can forgive me.’

Bulling and discrimination are always wrong – at any age. But it may be that even the fundamental premise underpinning how we view obesity and diabetes could be flawed.

Do you have experience with diabetes and bullying? Tell us your story