Cancer Council WA finds people with mental illnesses smoke more than other groups

Recovery support worker Ben Anthony, activity coordinator Victoria Smith, peer support worker Wes Ross and Vincentian Village manager Hazel Beirne.
Recovery support worker Ben Anthony, activity coordinator Victoria Smith, peer support worker Wes Ross and Vincentian Village manager Hazel Beirne.

THE number of people with mental illnesses who smoke is much higher than that of any other group within the community, according to Cancer Council WA.

The recent findings come as Cancer Council WA partners with Vinnies WA to help support their most vulnerable clients and make smoking history.

Cancer Council WA’s regional education officer Mikala Atkinson said although the prevalence of smoking among some groups in the general population was at an all-time low of 9.1 per cent, the figure was much higher (at least 32 per cent or higher) in individuals living with a mental illness.

“Vulnerable members in our community have the highest smoking rates and experience an unjust burden of disease, death and financial stress,” she said.

“Some people face very complex circumstances and therefore need, and importantly want, additional, tailored support to break free from tobacco smoking.

“The best way to offer this support is to join forces with organisations at the forefront of working with people experiencing disadvantage, so clients can receive ongoing access to information and support within the services they’re already accessing.”

Vinnies mental health services manager Hazel Beirne said a large number of people with mental illness who accessed the organisation’s accommodation and support program Vincentcare smoked, with staff seeing first-hand the impact it had on their health, finances and self-esteem.

“The circumstances that people accessing our services face make it more likely that they smoke and experience more barriers when trying to quit,” she said.

“In turn, high rates of smoking contribute to poor health, financial stress, and can have negative effects on people’s mental illness, but this does not need to be the case.

“Research shows the majority of people, regardless of their circumstances, want to quit, and we believe the people we work with should be given the opportunity to do so in a safe and supported environment.”

Ms Atkinson said working with Cancer Council WA would help drive down smoking rates and reduce tobacco-related inequalities.

For more information, visit makesmokinghistory.org.au/communityservices.

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