A new program is showing promise in helping mentally ill people quit smoking. The pilot program’s success is surprising therapists who have long assumed that people with mental illness are not interested in quitting smoking, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The pilot program, being conducted at an outpatient psychiatric clinic in New York City, has helped some patients feel more confident, the article says. Almost half of cigarettes sold in the United States are smoked by people with a serious mental illness, according to the newspaper.
The program uses nicotine replacement therapy and individual counseling with therapists who are trained to keep patients motivated and to work through obstacles.
Greg Miller, Medical Director of the Division of Adult Services at the New York State Office of Mental Health, told the newspaper that smoking traditionally was viewed as a way to keep mentally ill patients calm and entertained, and was used as a reward for good behavior in psychiatric hospitals.
Smoking not only has a high financial cost for people with mental illness, but it also takes a heavy toll on their health, causing high rates of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Some states have begun addressing the problem of smoking’s toll on the mentally ill. But while about 60 percent of state mental hospitals prohibit smoking, only one-third of them offer smoking cessation programs, the article notes.