A time to quit

31 March 2020

Experiences of smoking cessation support among people with severe mental illness

Curtis Sinclair

People with severe mental illness are three times as likely to smoke than those without, and those who do smoke are more likely to be heavy smokers. This can lead to multiple physical health problems, and, tragically, an estimated 50% of deaths of people with severe mental illness are from smoking-related illnesses.

However, rates of wanting to quit are about the same as for the general population. A time to quit explores the experiences of people living with severe mental illness of being helped to stop smoking.

The report is produced by Centre for Mental Health, Rethink Mental Illness and the Association of Mental Health Providers. It 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.

The report 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.

People with severe mental illness told us that they want more help to quit smoking, including help to find the right time for them, holistic and personalised support, access to the full range of effective therapies, support from social networks and incentives to reduce or quit smoking.

To help them to do this, it is important that health professionals are trained in how to support people with severe mental illness in smoking cessation techniques, for psychiatric medication to be adjusted when people stop smoking, and for ongoing help to be offered to sustain quit attempts.

Additional resources

We have worked with the above partners to produce a suite of resources to support individuals and teams wanting to learn more about severe mental illness and smoking cessation. You can download a quick guide for service users, a quick guide for practitioners, and a PowerPoint outlining the key issues.

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