Promoting Diabetes UK’s #TalkToSomeone Peer Support Service

Recently I’ve become a Peer Support volunteer for Diabetes UK, answering a national phone line (0843 353 8600) for one evening a week as well as answering emails sent to my email address.

I joined at a time when a promotion campaign was set to start and I was asked to share my story and experience. So I put some thoughts on an email to Sylvia, Diabetes UK’s South East Regional Media Officer, who produced a media release – shown in full at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday the article appeared in my local newspaper, Southampton’s Daily Echo and has already generated a fair bit of interest judging on the number of hits this blog got yesterday.

It’s also been picked up by a couple of other places: Portsmouth Evening News, The Littlehampton Gazette, the West Sussex County Times and The Community Channel

Diabetes UK’s Media Release

For immediate release

Hampshire man lends a shoulder to support peers living with diabetes

A 44-year-old Eastleigh man is offering support to people living with diabetes, with the help of charity Diabetes UK.

Kevin Winchcombe does not have diabetes himself but has been sharing his first-hand experience of caring for a child with the condition through online blogs, twitter and Facebook as a way of letting people with diabetes know that there may be others going through similar situations.

He is now being supported by Diabetes UK to use his personal understanding of the condition in their ‘Talk to Someone with Diabetes’’ peer support project. It is a special phone line, staffed by Diabetes UK volunteers, which anyone with diabetes is welcome to call.

It is also available for relatives and carers of people with diabetes. The volunteers do not offer medical advice but crucially they can talk about the practical and emotional aspects of living with diabetes because they also live with or care for someone with the condition.

Kevin’s daughter Amy, 14, was diagnosed four years ago with Type 1 diabetes, a condition that means people cannot produce insulin. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable.
It usually affects children or young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly.

The charity has trained Kevin to use his diabetes knowledge to reach out to people who are looking for support networks. So now in conjunction with his own experience, he feels confident to give practical and emotional support to people living with the condition on the telephone and by email.

Kevin said: “I get queries on a variety of subjects from questions on carbohydrate counting to advice on coping with the impact of diagnosis. But often it’s just that people want to talk to someone who can understand what they are going through and can offer ways to help or view their diabetes related concerns from a personal perspective.”

“My involvement in the Peer Support scheme is extremely rewarding as the volunteering role gives me the opportunity to help people who actually have diabetes and advise others, like me, who have someone close to them with the condition. I hope my contribution can, in some way, help people manage their diabetes more effectively by providing, advice and support for a condition for which there is currently no known cure.”

Jill Steaton, Diabetes UK South East regional manager said: “Kevin is a fantastic advocate for a parent looking after a child who has diabetes. As it’s a serious lifelong condition, it can be difficult, but through this project Diabetes UK offers the chance to talk to someone who has been there, who knows first-hand what it’s like to live with diabetes. Feeling like no-one understands what you’re going through can be tough but sharing experiences with someone who knows is often half the battle to managing the condition.”

To contact Kevin directly visit the blog at; email; or on Twitter @oceantragic.

To view profiles of all of the volunteers and start a conversation by email at any time, go to Or if you prefer to speak to someone directly you can call 0843 353 8600. The service is open Sunday to Friday, 6pm to 9pm.

Diabetes has improved our life. What? Really?

A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course with Diabetes UK in London, as I’m soon to become one of their Peer Support team. I’m not going to write about the training itself as for confidentiality reasons that’s between those of us on the course but there’s one part of it we did which made me (and a few others) think about life since diagnosis.

Your journey since diagnosis

Just before lunchtime arrived we were asked to search our soul to find out how we really feel about our lives with diabetes and whether it would raise any further questions, or highlight anything we needed to explore further. This seemed to be a good thing to do as unless we know and understand our own journey how can we help any of the newly diagnosed cope with the early days of their journey.

Urrgghh! Drawing!

Drawing lines on a piece of paper doesn’t come naturally to me but I felt comfortable with our diabetes journey and drew my picture of troughs (and troughs) and peaks (and peaks and peaks).
I started on the left of the page in the middle but soon wish I hadn’t as I ran out of room.
I’d finished way before everyone else and my mind wandered back to a Technical Drawing lesson at school when I proudly approached the teacher asking what to do next, the teacher took one look at my drawing and suggested that I’d finished before everyone else as I’d neglected to do it properly.
I checked my chart. No, we’re good, I’m happy with that.

Diabetes improves our life. What? Really?

Here’s my chart – which may not be drawn to scale whatsoever.

Hover over the yellow buttons to see what happened at that point in time.

29th Dec 2010

diabetes journey chart

At diagnosis, our mood dropped, trying to come to grips with coping with type 1. Thoughts of cancelling the trip to India also got us down.

Lunchtime chat: could this journey really be accurate?

Another peer supporter, Nick Guerin (who won this year’s Quality in Care Diabetes Peoples’ Award) and I were chatting at lunchtime and talked about our own charts, which amazingly weren’t dissimilar, strange considering our journeys have been quite different. Nick’s blogged about it in his own blog Type Aware.
We both quizzed our own charts’ finishing positions: could it really be right that we both thought we’re in a better place now than before diagnosis. It seems crazy but actually I do believe it’s right.
I believe having diabetes has made Amy more determined to do well, to beat her peers in activities, to be thankful for what she has and can do. I feel I’m doing more things for others than I ever did before diagnosis too.
Having said this I’d be much happier right now if diabetes would bugger off.

Go on, have a go yourself

Why not draw your own journey since diagnosis and see how you get on. You may be surprised how you actually view your journey and it may raise some questions for you to explore.
Everyone’s different and there’s no right answer, this is just for fun.