Northside, a Psychiatric Unit at the Launceston General Hospital in Tasmania, is going to force its patients to give up smoking.
I read this yesterday on the net at Yahoo!7 News. Grrrrrr!
So the Nurse points out that folk with mental illness smoke more. As a psychiatric nurse for twenty-four years I’d agree but bugger if I agree with this response.
Here’s the thing, forcing a person to give up smoking when they are either in an acute psychosis or suffering persistent symptoms is simply cruel.
Remember in experiencing a psych illness at all one also suffers the whole deal of a mental illness in this community, which I assure you sucks, and includes poverty, discrimination, rejection, depression, loneliness and more.
Any smoker or ex-smoker knows (and any mental health ‘expert’ should know) that the time to give up smoking is certainly not at one of the most stressful times of your life. Please remember a high amount of these patients are Involuntary, i.e. there against their will.
Apparently the Mental Health Ward will do this to stop patients using this habit, with all its (non-arguable) negative health consequences, as a way to reduce stress and anxiety. Instead they will hand out nicotine patches.
But forcing this choice on people is surely against their human rights and further nicotine patches are no replacement for the emotional habitual dependency and it is this dependency that is the mountain to climb in giving up. Yet there was no mention of a rigorous psychotherapeutic program that will be implemented for the clients on top of the therapeutic requirements when a person is in the middle if a psychiatric crisis
The reason there was no mention is because it will not be provided. There is no longer the time, the budget or the will to provide much of therapeutic program at all.
So instead what will happen will be a significant increase in the massive stress already experienced by a client of this service. For those who are unaware these people are experiencing voices and images and thoughts invading their normal consciousness, or they are in such psychic pain they must be kept against their will and convinced that life’s worth living.
And this will completely destroy any health benefit the individual may have gained by quitting smoking because firstly, stress is very bad for our physical health, and secondly you can be sure that nurses will be pouring out extra psychiatric medications for the persons stay in hospital due to this stress and the resultant behavior.
Cigarettes more than likely will bring on disease for our bodies. But psychiatric medications definitely will damage the organs over time. Psychiatrists love to say that their drugs these days have a lot less side effects. Well, yes they do. They’d want to! I’ve never forgotten my first day in 1985 at Willsmere Psychiatric Hospital in Melbourne staring at those poor people who had been ‘medicated’ for years. Their side effects were horrendous.
Some mental health experts suggest that ‘patients’, smoke more and indeed drink more coffee in order to decrease the effects of the psych meds therefore making them give up smoking is a good thing. Well, for years I asked most folks whether this was true for them and they agreed it was.
But note. The side effect of the drugs they were trying to combat was the tranquilizing effect, an effect that whilst less is still very much part of psychiatric meds.
That effect that made them feel groggy and cloudy in their heads 24/7. Often their hallucinations or misery was still there, it was just that the medication doped them up so much they wouldn’t emotionally react to those symptoms, but even getting out of bed was a Herculean effort. It’s the ‘zombie’ effect; of course folk want to be more alert.
The mental health system in making this decision is yet again infringing upon the rights of these folks, of us folks, and are responding to the ‘political/social fad’ of anti-smoking ignoring the clear evidence that this will not be a positive mental health or physical health experience but yet another reason for folk to feel disempowered over their lives.