Fighting smoking in people with mental illness
Although fewer Australians smoke tobacco each year, cigarettes continue to have a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Australians living with mental illness are twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as the general population, and this rate increases dramatically among people with schizophrenia.
In addition to the health effects and increased risk of cancer, smoking can also lead to financial stress, contribute to cycles of poverty and make it more difficult to treat existing mental health problems among these groups.
Our Tobacco control program aims to address this problem by empowering and building the capacity of community service organizations that work directly with priority populations.
Domareen Shimul works in the South West Sydney branch of Neami National (Liverpool) and is one of the champions of the program. Neami is a community-based organization that works to improve mental health and well-being in local communities.
For Domareen, the Tackling Tobacco program has been a welcome way to make a difference in the lives of the people she works with.
Through Tackling Tobacco, Domareen set up a steering committee made up of staff and volunteers trained to run this program, Neami data collection systems were updated to capture results and impacts and a partnership was formed with a local pharmacy to provide consumers with access to free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), funded by the program.
“As an immigrant and former refugee helping people is my passion,” she said.
“Everyone we support has a mental health diagnosis and the majority are smokers.”
Everyone at the Cancer Council has been so helpful – the support is amazing. I am passionate about what I have done and what we can continue to achieve with Tackling Tobacco.
– Domareen Shimul
Tackling Tobacco provides community service organizations like Neami with training for staff and some funding, enabling them to create support systems, including smoke-free signage, updating tobacco policies, and providing supplies to consumers. free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) consisting of patches, gum, mouth spray and lozenges.
“When new people join Neami, we help them meet a demand for physical health. One of the questions asked is “are you a non-smoker?” If the answer is ‘yes’, we ask them to refrain from smoking in the office and during their support sessions, ”she said.
“And from there comes a conversation about smoking, and whether they’re interested in cutting back or quitting.”
While there is a common misconception that people with mental health issues are unwilling to quit, Domareen said there was evidence to suggest this was not the case.
“People often don’t pay for smoking cessation products or go out of their way to find resources. However, as soon as you offer it, they are receptive, ”she says.
“I think it’s mostly a financial question. When I told someone about the products available, their face lit up. She couldn’t believe that she wasn’t going to have to pay for products to help her quit smoking.
“She wasn’t going to spend money out of her pocket to buy NRTs, but now she hasn’t smoked since.
“Everyone at the Cancer Council has been very helpful – the support is amazing. I am passionate about what I have done and what we can continue to achieve with Tackling Tobacco. “