Nurses take mental health message on smoking to Westminster

Two nurses went to parliament earlier this week to highlight the negative impact of tobacco use on mental health, in order to mark No Smoking Day.

Kerry Apedaile and Gayle Wilkinson, from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, shared their experiences of smoking, caring for smokers and helping them to quit.

“Making a change isn’t always easy but the results can be lifechanging”

Gayle Wilkinson

The pair attended an event on Tuesday where they spoke to lords, ministers and other parliamentarians on proposed legislation to support a smokefree generation.

Under its ‘Stopping the Start’ policy, the government is aiming to create the first smokefree generation by bringing forward legislation so that people born on or after 1 January 2009 will never be able to legally buy tobacco products.

The nurses were representing NHS mental health services at the event, which was organised by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health.

As the trust’s specialist tobacco dependence service lead, Ms Apedaile spoke at the event about the risks of smoking on people with mental health conditions.

Kerry Apedaile

Kerry Apedaile

“Most of our patients start smoking from a very young age and can be addicted for the rest of their lives,” she noted.

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“People with a mental health condition die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population. This is not the result of mental health, but rather due to smoking related illness.”

Meanwhile, Ms Wilkinson, the trust’s acting associate nurse director/community matron, shared her smoking cessation story at the event.

She said: “As someone who started smoking at the age of 13, I have experienced how the addiction impacts every area of your life.

“I lost my mother to a smoking-related disease. My husband and I have both overcome a cancer diagnosis because of smoking,” she said.

“I’m incredibly pleased to say we have both successfully quit after over 30 years of being addicted,” she said. “Making a change isn’t always easy but the results can be lifechanging.”

Ms Wilkinson acknowledged that there had been “huge steps forward” in changing societal norms in how smoking was viewed but warned that there was still work to be done.

She added: “If sharing my story can add to the conversation and have a positive impact towards creating a smokefree generation, I’ll be there.

“It fills me with hope that young people will be supported through this legislation to achieve their true potential with a life free from smoking-related harms.”

Gayle Wilkinson

Gayle Wilkinson

Their trust highlighted that smoking could have serious implications on people with mental health conditions, including reducing life expectancy and spending more time in poor health.

It noted that smoking rates among people with a serious mental illness were more than three times that of the general population and were higher still in the North East region.

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It added that smoking was also known to contribute to poor mental health, including more severe symptoms of psychosis and higher rates of depression.

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