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Rebecca Thomson Guest Post

Today’s guest post is from Rebecca Thomson.

Let’s get right into it.

Myths and Legends

Urban legends – we’ve all heard them. Chant ‘Bloody Mary’ three times into a mirror, and she’ll appear behind you. The girl whose boyfriend goes out to get fuel for the car, and is found dead on the roof the next day. The list goes on and on. They’re stories to scare children, disturb adults, and share via those annoying chain emails that everybody hates. But most people know that they’re not true.

Diabetes is no different, when you get down to it. As a disease, it’s surrounded by so many myths and legends that are completely ridiculous. These are the things though that sadly, Joe Public on the street believes to be true. There is so much ignorance out there that it can be frustrating/saddening/infuriating/blood boiling. Choose as you feel appropriate. For me personally, I often find myself split between any of the above. It can depend on what you come across.

I’m very fortunate really, in that in my social circles, I don’t tend to come across that much ignorance. That’s not to say that I haven’t come across any, because I have. I’ve been asked whether I have ‘the one where you’ve got too much sugar, or the one where you haven’t got enough’, and I know my mother had to field off questions from a cousin about how long I was going to have diabetes for, and when it was going away. I was told to ‘call back when (I) came off insulin’ in regards to donating blood. But on the whole, I’ve been extremely lucky that when someone I’m with doesn’t understand a thing, they’ll usually listen to me when I try to explain. Which is great. But I know that unfortunately this isn’t the norm.

You can catch diabetes. You get it from eating too much sugar. Children grow out of it. You’ll go blind/have your legs cut off/die young. You have to eat special ‘diabetic’ foods. You can’t ever eat chocolate. Note – none of these are true. Yet they are all things that you hear people saying, or come across online. Then on the reverse, it’s not exactly uncommon to hear or read things like ‘diabetes isn’t serious’, or that insulin cures diabetes. And let’s not get started on the ‘snake oil salesmen’ that are ten a penny. Though should you feel that some magic berries, grass juice or similar might be fun for a laugh, you’re probably sorted.

The media makes a mistake in an article. People read and believe the media. That becomes generally accepted information – ‘it has to be true because I read it in the Daily News!’. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eBT6OSr1TI – don’t feel you have to link it, but it rather proves the point, I think! ) Why would they lie? But whilst they’re not giving you the right facts, I’m not convinced that it’s outright lying.

What can be done about it all though? That’s the million dollar question. Shoddy journalism by the mass media doesn’t help. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s just a general lack of education. If the writers of many articles were to spend two minutes fact checking with someone actually knowledgeable about diabetes, perhaps the continuing cycle of misinformation could be avoided. There are plenty or reputable sites and sources out there for fact checking. Major diabetes charities have good basic summaries of both types of diabetes on their websites, for a starting point.

I can empathise somewhat with large scale education campaigns only tailoring to one aspect of diabetes. Educate about Type 2, then there’s the risk you’re spreading misinformation about Type 1, and vice versa. Diabetes is a broad and complex disease, with so many different types, variations, treatments and so forth. It’s a lot for someone who might know nothing about it to wrap their head around. You don’t want to overload a person to the point where they’re no longer interested. But there’s got to be a middle ground, surely? It’s just where to find it.

One thought on “Rebecca Thomson Guest Post

  1. This is a great writeup, Becky. Thanks for sharing. I agree completely that we in the Diabetes Community must do a better job in reaching out to media. I’m a newspaper reporter myself, and have experience at a daily county paper that came out six days a week. It is a matter of time crunches, not intentional “lie-spreading” or larger stupidity campaign. Most general coverage reporters just don’t know what they’re writing about, and that’s even true about health reporters. I make sure to contact each reporter who I see has written a D-article, either praising or pointing out inaccuracies. It’s something that is a fault of the industry, but can be improved through personal attention – maybe not ever stopped, though. Anyhow, thanks for writing this and “including instructions.” Ha!

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