Help those with mental health problems to stop smoking
BETTER anti-smoking services, such as counselling and nicotine replacements, are needed for people with mental health problems, according to Plaid Cymru.
New statistics show people with long-standing mental health conditions are almost twice as likely to smoke - 36% compared to 19% of the general population.
Smoking can often make conditions such as depression or anxiety worse, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that giving up smoking is just as effective as anti-depressants in tackling anxiety and depression.
It can also enable doses of medication to be reduced within four weeks of giving up. But, according to the Royal College, people with mental health conditions are less likely to get help to stop smoking.
Arfon Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams, a former social worker who worked in mental health, said: “I saw that almost everybody smoked, especially inpatients at the former North Wales Hospital Denbigh.
“Now so much treatment is out in the community, practical steps could be taken. People with mental health problems need help to give up smoking as part of their treatment plans. It affects their psychological and physical health and would also save them a great deal of money.
“Alternatives should be encouraged, such as nicotine replacments or counselling as part of treatment. I don’t know if there is a relationship between the toxins in tobacco and the exacerbation of mental health conditions, however, stopping smoking can only be a good thing.”
Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Rhun ap Iorwerth said the figures showed that far more support was needed within mental health services to help people quit smoking.
Anglesey AM Mr ap Iorwerth said: “These figures show that smoking rates are still far too high among people with mental health conditions and, all too often, helping them give up smoking is overlooked in treatment plans. Tackling smoking must also be regarded as an essential part of recovery.
“While there is much that needs to be done to improve mental health services, there are many positive incremental steps we can make to help those in need and improving the support available to stop smoking is one of them.
“Stopping smoking can have a significant effect on some conditions and experts say it can be just as effective as medication.
“I want the Welsh Government to take action and improve the smoking cessation services that are offered within mental health services.
“Offering one-size-fits-all services won’t work, and tailored support is crucial, which includes explaining the clinical benefits that stopping smoking will have on the particular mental health condition that a person has and offering step-by-step practical help.”
● Hywel Williams MP