Regular readers of this blog will know that mental health is now a huge part of the environment for smoking and health in Scotland.
At least one third of tobacco used in the UK is by people with mental health issues, and while they are as likely to want to quit, smoking rates remain high in this group and are not declining as fast as in the wider population.
The resulting harm and inequality these people experience demands that action to support people with mental health issues acknowledges smoking as part of the problems they face. This is why ASH Scotland pushed for the new mental health strategy to include firm commitments on smoking and mental health, and why we welcomed the strategy’s actual commitment to do so.
Of particular merit is the strategy ambition:
“That the rate of smoking amongst people with a diagnosed mental health problem
should decline at the same rate as the rate for the general population.”
This is morally right, but to be achieved in practice it will require some means of recording smoking rates amongst people with mental health issues in Scotland, which does not currently happen.
It will then need practical support to stop smoking, and find less harmful coping mechanisms, to be integrated across mental health services. This makes the second piece of good news particularly timely.
Our new guidance for community based mental health services was launched in late March. The culmination of the first phase of our IMPACT project, the guidance document is an excellent new resource providing the information, suggestions and action framework for staff to help individuals who want to stop smoking. We have now been awarded a Scottish Government grant to continue this work for a further year, supporting implementation by services across Edinburgh and Lothians.
Knowing that smoking harms mental health as well as physical health, and that most smokers in this group want to stop, we’re relishing the chance to get out and do something about that.