Smoking rates among people with a mental illness are high, with around one in three who smoke.
About 32% of people with a mental illness smoke cigarettes1 and this rate increases to between 60% and 73% for people with psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia2 3.
There is strong evidence that many people with a mental illness want to quit smoking and that smoking causes stress, rather than relieving it4. With the right support from family, friends and health professionals, people with a mental illness can quit smoking and experience benefits including a healthier and longer life, improved self-esteem, more money to spare, and less stress.
The Department of Health, in partnership with SANE Australia, has developed resources to help people with a mental illness to quit smoking.
Download Guide to a smoke-free life (PDF 224 KB) a brochure for people with a mental illness who want to quit smoking.
Download Guide to a smoke-free life (Word 58 KB)
Supporting someone with a mental illness to quit smokingIt is up to the smoker to decide whether they want to change their smoking habits. You cannot make someone quit, but there are ways you can provide support. It will help if you:
- learn about the process of quitting
- are supportive and encouraging
- avoid being critical or negative
- avoid telling them what they ‘should’ do—offer strategies and information instead.
- encouraging the person to talk to their doctor or health professional
- establishing an agreement with dates and goals for you both
- listening to how the smoker would like to quit – gradually or all at once?
- suggesting resources to help the person quit smoking such as phoning the Quitline (13 7848), using the Quit Now Calculator or the Quit Now: My Quit Buddy iPhone/iPad app.
Download Supporting someone with a mental illness to quit smoking (PDF 932 KB) or
Supporting someone with a mental illness to quit smoking (Word 22 KB)
Information for health professionalsThe reasons why people with a mental illness smoke are complex, but many want to quit and are capable of doing so with the right support. There are additional physical, psychological and social risks involved in smoking for people with a mental illness. They have a lot to gain from quitting but need support to achieve this.
As a health professional, you can help someone with a mental illness quit smoking by:
- pointing out the positive health, financial and social benefits of quitting
- giving quietly persistent suggestions about quitting
- offering patient and positive support with suggestions and advice, including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) where appropriate, and other supports.
Smoking and mental illness: A guide for health professionals (Word 25 KB) now and help your patients with a mental illness quit smoking.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007.
- Scollo, MM, Winstanely, MH (eds). 2008. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues. Third Edition. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria. Available from: www.TobaccoInAustralia.org.au
- Jablensky A, McGrath J, Herrman H, Castle D, Gureje O, Morgan V, et al. 1999. People living with psychotic illness: an Australian study 1997-98. Canberra: Mental Health Branch, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.
- Ragg, M & Ahmed, T. 2008. Smoke and Mirrors: a review of the literature on smoking and mental illness. Tackling Tobacco Program Research Series No 1, Cancer Council NSW.
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