People living with mental illness have higher rates of smoking than the general population, and as a result, experience a greater health and financial burden.
Community managed mental health organisations (CMOs) play a key role in reducing smoking amongst people with mental illness, but many require support to implement systems and provide consistent quit support.
Neami National Lidcombe, a CMO in Sydney’s west, joined the Tackling Tobacco program in 2019 hoping it would equip them with the knowledge and skills to help consumers with mental illness quit smoking.
They had a well-established smoking policy, but staff lacked funding, training and resources on smoking interventions.
“Consumers living with a mental illness experience significant barriers to smoking reduction, such as lack of targeted programs, lack of education, mental health barriers, cognitive barriers, access to health care and hospital admissions which can affect smoking reduction goals,” a Neami Lidcombe staff member said.
As a result, staff felt they were unable to give consumers personalised support, appropriate referrals to evidence-based quit services and access to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
Staff were also concerned about interfering with consumers’ prescription medications and experiencing increased exposure to second-hand smoke during face-to-face support sessions.
Taking part in Tackling Tobacco
After joining the Tackling Tobacco program, Neami Lidcombe appointed a Tackling Tobacco Champion who implemented the core components of the program and communicated with Cancer Council NSW. A steering group was set up to encourage staff and volunteers to complete the online and face-to-face training and this group also encouraged staff to begin offering smoking cessation support to consumers.
Thanks to Tackling Tobacco grant funding, Neami Lidcombe overcame cost barriers and established a partnership with a local pharmacy that facilitated free NRT for consumers. GPs provided continued support by providing medication advice and prescriptions to improve ongoing quit support.
“Supportive structures have been developed so that Neami National is able to improve tobacco reduction support,” a Neamie Lidcombe staffer said. “That includes supporting consumers to GPs to discuss smoking recovery goals and partnerships with pharmacies for consumers to access NRT and have conversations about appropriate use of NRT products.
“The ability to increase access to NRT for consumers, through the grant provided by the Cancer Council, has been essential to addressing and supporting consumers to engage in smoking cessation goals.”
Set up for future success
Taking part in the Tackling Tobacco program was a huge milestone for Neami Lidcombe. After completing the program, three consumers who were thinking about quitting were identified, and another seven were in the process of actively quitting.
Quitting smoking for mental health consumers can be difficult. However, the Tackling Tobacco program has equipped staff at Neami Lidcombe with the knowledge of smoking cessation interventions, supportive systems to enable staff to deliver consistent quit support to consumers, relationships with GPs and pharmacies, and access to NRT to ensure consumers have consistent support to quit smoking.