A YOUNG man from the Vale of Glamorgan is urging the nation to talk about diabetes and social issues, after going through it himself.

Duke Al Durham, 26, lives with type 1 diabetes and has struggled with his mental health – particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – for some time.

Growing up in the village of Dinas Powys, he threw himself into sports at school and competed in athletics and played ruby and football.

He studied sports coaching at Metropolitan University and kept on exercising and playing ruby locally.

But secretly, he was not coping and felt lonely.

“I was inspired by the wordplay of artists such as Eminem, The Notorious BIG, 2Pac, Jay Z, 50 Cent,” he said.

“Rap became my escape mechanism, and I admired the way these artists used lyrics to tell stories.

“I started writing at 11-years-old and the raps developed into poems to explain what was going on in my brain.

“Having OCD from an early age wasn’t easy. I couldn’t articulate how it made me feel, especially with the stigma attached to it.

“I felt that, if I talked about the tormenting bad thoughts attacking me, the relentless compulsions I had to do, in order to feel satisfied that nothing bad would happen, people would think I was crazy or just not understand.


“Writing gave me the freedom to express how I felt”.

Mr Durham’s passion for writing was overwhelming, as well as his realisation of the power of poetry to soothe and challenge discrimination and unfairness.

“As I got older and more mature, I started to write about topics which I felt an urge, a passion to voice my opinion about, to try and change the world for the good.

“I now write about racism, which I have experienced over the years, inequality and mental health.

“Although I struggled immensely growing up with a lonely mental health illness, using and abusing alcohol which got me into a lot of frightening moments, my family have always been my rock”.

At the age of 21, he finally got the help he needed after being referred to Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT), or talking therapy, on the NHS. It gave him the ability to look at his intrusive thoughts in a different perspective, combat them and not let them rule his life.

When Mr Durham was 22, he travelled to Thailand and Bali with his partner and at the end of the trip he started to feel unwell. When he was back in Wales, his health deteriorated very quickly and he was rushed to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff, where he was diagnosed with salmonella and sepsis infection. After being hospitalized for six weeks and then suffering over a year of ill health, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes:

“It was a complete shock to go through all this because I was young and fit. I remember feeling very lethargic all the time, I used to tell myself to ‘man up’ and get on with it.

“I was still playing rugby, my jobs were physical, (landscape gardening and personal training), and still studying at University.

“I also went through a period of distress and trauma which left me with traits of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), which healthcare professionals believed could have been a second trigger”.

Mr Durham is now supporting Diabetes UK Cymru to raise awareness of mental health and the lack of psychological and emotional support services (Too often missing Campaign). He is releasing a book of poems next year called ‘Bittersweet’ to mark the centenary of the discovery of insulin, developed to treat diabetes for the first time in 1922.