Association of Mental Health Providers

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New Report on SMI and Smoking

People living with severe mental illness want effective and personalised help to give up smoking, according to  new reports published today by Association of Mental Health Providers, Centre for Mental Health, Rethink Mental Illness, and partners’ Friends, Families, and Travellers, LGBT Hero on behalf of The National LGB&T Partnership, and Race Equality Foundation.

The report was commissioned by the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance (HWA), a partnership between the Department of Health, NHS England, and Public Health England, and 20 national voluntary sector organisations and consortia, and explores the experiences of people living with severe mental illness being helped to stop smoking.

People living with severe mental illness have a 15-20 year shorter life expectancy than the general population, are three times as likely to smoke, and are at a far higher risk of physical illnesses such as lung diseases. This also puts people more at risk from coronavirus.

A Time to Quit finds that people with severe mental illness who smoke are just as keen to quit as other smokers, but few get effective help. There are widespread myths that it is not possible or not safe for people with a mental illness to quit smoking. Yet with the right help, including behavioural techniques delivered well, stop smoking medication and family and peer support, people can reduce or quit smoking.

The report concludes that people with severe mental illness need access to personalised and holistic help with smoking. This means offering help at every opportunity, with access to the full range of effective treatments, and sustaining support once someone has cut or quit smoking to make it more likely to succeed longer term.