People With Mental Health Problems Need Extra Cessation Support

October 2017

Mental Health

Country of origin: UK

According to a new report published by the Mental Health Foundation, government efforts are needed to ensure that people with mental health problems are supported to give up smoking in light of the ban. The charity is calling for investment in services that offer counselling and stress management techniques.

?Taking a deep breath (The mental health implications of anti-smoking legislation)? says that people with mental health problems are more likely to smoke than the general population, and less likely to be able to give up using the mainstream programmes already on offer, leaving them more at risk of smoking related diseases. People with mental health problems face some of the greatest health inequalities and are much more likely to suffer chronic physical ill-health and premature death than the general population.

While tobacco use in the last decade among the general population has slightly declined [one in four people in the UK aged over 16 smoke - 13 million people], use amongst people with mental health problems has not decreased, with an estimated 40 per cent regularly smoking.

Research in the ?Taking a deep breath? report reveals that many people with a mental illness, including those without a diagnosis, smoke to self-medicate because nicotine temporarily helps them relieve feelings of stress, anxiety and low mood. People with depression are more likely to smoke because nicotine activates the release of dopamine in the brain, which is often found to be depleted in people with the illness.

Three-quarters of people with schizophrenia smoke, making them twice as likely to die from lung disease. Those with the illness report that smoking helps them to cope with some of its negative symptoms, such as low motivation and social withdrawal, and the boredom connected with social isolation. Nicotine can also temporarily alleviate some of the side effects of medication, which include restlessness, shakiness and feelings of drowsiness.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: ?Lots of smokers with mental health problems say that they would like to stop smoking but struggle when they try to do so. Mainstream programmes to help people quit do not adequately address the needs of those who live with a mental illness - they need additional support. It is unfair that they should be at an increased risk of dying from a smoking related disease. Their needs can, and should be addressed, to improve their chances of being among the 600,000 who are expected to stop smoking following the ban.?

The Mental Health Foundation has also produced a booklet called ?Why people smoke and how to quit?. The booklet and ?Taking a deep breath (The mental health implications of anti-smoking legislation)? report are both available online.

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