A recent study has shown that mental health patients smoke ‘three times as much’ as patients who are suffering from physical health problems.
There are many contributing factors as to why this is happening, and also why not enough is being done about it. There is a lot of uncredited credence given to the thought that smoking, or indeed nicotine, helps people to ‘cope’, and it is often cited as a stress buster. However, this is only anecdotal, and by being perpetuated, this myth becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, and a damaging one at that.
So too, one of the biggest problems we face in the mental health community is people not treating a mental health issue as they would a physical health issue. The argument goes, if you had a broken arm, you would go to a hospital. If you were experiencing a mental health issue, then you should view this in the same way. By that logic, mental health patients should be discouraged from smoking, as physical health patients are by their medical professionals, whereas mental health nurses and caring staff are often facilitating patients smoking by purchasing cigarettes.
Of course every person should be free to choose what they do, and smoking or not smoking is a choice that people can make, however, dealing with mental health issues is a challenging time in anyone’s life and can seriously affect physical health too. Strong physical health aids the battle against mental illness, and the difficulty a mental health patient may face is only further compounded by something as damaging as smoking.
This report emphasises the need for more support to be given to mental health patients to help them stop smoking, for the sake of their physical, and mental health. There are of course the obvious physical health benefits to be gained from cessation of smoking, and in turn the mental health benefits that are uncurred by better physical health. But perhaps more importantly, there are vast positive mental effects of giving up smoking.
By conquering an addiction, one can receive a great boost to their self-esteem and self-worth, and find newfound confidence in their ability to beat something through strength of will.
The physical and mental health benefits of giving up smoking are invaluable, and everything needs to be done to help mental health patients gain these benefits.