A man from Blackburn has shared his diabetes journey after joining a mental health programme hosted by Blackburn Rovers.

Paul Kennedy is a participant on the award-winning Men in Sheds programme at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, and he has been living with type two diabetes for more than five years.

While the diagnosis was difficult to come to terms with it helped Paul, who is an alcoholic, to stop drinking.

“I found it very difficult when I was diagnosed,” Paul said.

“I didn’t know I had diabetes and the only indication I had was that when I used to drink alcohol, as I was an alcoholic, my intolerance went sky high.

“I noticed I would have a couple of drinks and fall straight asleep. It would come across as if I was drunk but I was at the pre-diabetic stage.

“I had given up alcohol six months before my diagnosis in January 2018. It meant I had no choice but to carry on being sober and that is the only positive out of all of this, as it helped me stop drinking."

Paul wanted to help raise awareness of diabetes and highlight some symptoms of the condition.

As opposed to type-one diabetes - which has no known cause - type two diabetes is often associated with obesity, inactivity, and a poor diet, and can be reversed by leading a healthy lifestyle.

He said: “I manage my diabetes through medication but I have tried to cut down on certain foods, but I have found this very difficult.

“I do like crisps, chocolate and biscuits for example, and I am trying to improve the amount of exercise I am doing.

“I do think there needs to be more education about diabetes to help people notice if they are living at the pre-diabetic stage without even realising.

“More education is needed about food preparation and how to look out for the signs for example.

“I did a very good course called DESMOND that helped me with my diet and raising awareness for foods that are complex carbohydrates.

“I have the support of the Men in Sheds group and we do light exercise and it gets us all out. I can’t speak highly enough about the programme and Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, they do fantastic work.”

Ilyas Patel, who manages the Men in Sheds programme at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, said: “The beauty about the Men in Sheds programme is that as well as helping with mental well-being it helps participants their physical well-being too. 

“Through gardening, for example, participants are constantly on their feet, walking, lifting and moving things around which is very important.

“As a group we have done group walks around Ewood Park and for the past few years participated in the Suicide Prevention walks which have been organised by the council.

“On our recent residential to Belfast, as a group over three days, we did approximately 70,000 steps.”

Ilyas reserved praise for Paul for telling his story and how he is living with type two diabetes to help others.

He said: “Paul has been an active member of the Men in Sheds group for more than three years now. He is one of the most dedicated people that I know.

“He is always one of the first people to arrive on a Thursday morning and one of the last to leave. Paul has had many struggles but one thing about Paul is that he is a fighter.

“Paul has been very open from the start about his mental health and struggles with the group and because of this has had fantastic support from the group.

“When I first met Paul, he was willing to help with gardening but was struggling with his social skills.

"Whilst he has been with us, he has completed the community ambassadors programme, taken part in our fit fans programme, has attended community events with me and taken part in workshops.

“Paul has recently started volunteering at DARE which has been fabulous to see as this is something I would not have envisaged in the early days. Paul is a credit to the Men in Sheds team and is loved and respected by everyone.”

Symptoms of type two diabetes, according to the NHS

  • Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
  • feeling thirsty all the time
  • feeling very tired
  • losing weight without trying to
  • itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • blurred vision