Speaker Spotlight: Nicole Bereolos, PhD, MPH, CPH, CDE

Beyond Depression – Serious Mental Illness & Diabetes: The Role of the Diabetes Educator

Time & Place:
3:45 pm – 4:45 pm
Saturday | Room 20BC


Nicole Bereolos, PhD, MPH, CPH, CDE

About the speaker:
Dr. Bereolos is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator who has focused on working with adults who have chronic medical conditions, with a special emphasis on diabetes. She has been working in this area since the early 2000s and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1992.

Session overview:
Most of the discussion about diabetes and mental health deals with depression, Dr. Bereolos said, and rarely includes others in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Saturday’s session will cover schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and others.

“I’ll talk about what these are, what to look for, medications that are often prescribed for these psychiatric illnesses, and how those medications can affect blood glucose levels,” she said. “And then some unique challenges that educators have in dealing with co-morbid serious mental illness and diabetes.”

Why this session matters to AADE16 attendees:
According to the NIH, 13 percent of U.S. adults in 2008 were treated for some form of mental illness, and a 2014 survey found that 4 percent had a serious mental illness. In addition, some anti-psychotic drugs can lead to weight gains of as much as 50 pounds, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Take-home messages:
Diabetes educators must be aware of the unique challenges their patients with mental illness face and know of local programs available for those with mental health conditions. Educators must also identify mental health professionals able to work with patients with diabetes and mental illness or diabetes alone.

“If you ask somebody with diabetes what they’re looking for in a mental health professional, they often say, ‘I want somebody who knows what diabetes is. I don’t want to spend 2-3 sessions having to teach my mental health professional what diabetes is,’” Dr. Bereolos said.

For those with patients who have serious mental illness, she recommends finding an ally—family, friend, neighbor or clergy, for example—who can help with follow-up care and offer feedback on how the patient is doing.

Also of note:
Dr. Bereolos continues to develop a list of mental health professionals knowledgeable about diabetes, but the list today stands at less than 30 nationwide. She encourages educators to keep looking for the right resources for those patients in need.

“I get very, very few diabetes-related referrals, and I’m not sure what the gap is, because when I speak to other educators around the country, they say that they wish they could have somebody like me in their back pocket,” she said.

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