Breaking the link between smoking and mental illness

Posted 2 Jul 2018.


Cancer Council Western Australia and Vinnies WA have announced a partnership that both organisations believe will help their clients make smoking history.

Cancer Council WA Regional Education Officer, Mikala Atkinson, said it is important to remember that while the smoking prevalence among the general population is now at an all-time low of 9.1%, within some groups in our community, such as individuals living with a mental illness, the figure is much higher (at least 32% or higher).

"Vulnerable members in our community have the highest smoking rates and experience an unjust burden of disease, death and financial stress," Ms Atkinson 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 WA Mental Health Services Manager, Hazel Beirne said the partnership reinforces their efforts to provide a holistic service that empowers consumers to identify and achieve goals related to their lifestyle and overall health.

Vinnies Mental Health Service is a community based program that offers accommodation and support for experiencing mental illness. The service is led by the belief that everyone should have the opportunity for recovery.

Support workers tailor care to the individual and work to build life skills and reconnect people with family and the broader community.

"A large number of our residents smoke and we see how this not only affects their health, but their finances and self-esteem," Ms Beirne said.

"The circumstances that people accessing our services face make it more likely that they smoke and experience more barriers when trying to quit.

"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 she is confident the work Cancer Council WA is undertaking in conjunction with the community services sector will help drive down smoking rates and reduce tobacco-related inequalities.

"This is an exciting initiative because community services, such as Vinnies WA, have an important role to play in helping to break the cycle and reduce the unjust burden caused by smoking.

"We believe all lives are equal, and that nobody should live in poverty, be socially excluded or die early because of tobacco. By working with Vinnies WA we're stronger in our fight to make smoking history for everyone," she said.

For more information about Make Smoking History program for community services, visit



Found in:  News - 2018 | View all news