Smoking and mental health—Teresa’s story

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Over 85 per cent of smokers with a mental illness have tried to quit at some stage. But the smoking rates among this group are still two to three times higher than that of the general population. This Mental Health Awareness Week (7–13 October), we’re investigating how support can help you overcome barriers to quitting. 

People like Teresa Schmuckers demonstrate that giving up smoking can have a significant positive impact on mental health.

“I’m a happier and healthier person without the smokes. If you want to break your habit, you will see it’s one of the best things you will do for yourself.”

Teresa shares her story in a note that she wrote, looking back on her quitting experience

Many smokers worry that quitting will trigger depression or a decline in mental health.

But the important thing to remember is that giving up smoking will make you feel better long term.

Quitting smoking is associated with reduced levels of depression, stress and anxiety as well as improved in mood—so the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term challenges.

The feeling of stress in the weeks immediately following quitting may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal. This will fade as your body becomes used to not having nicotine, and in the meantime it can be addressed with replacement therapies or quitting medications.

You can get through short-term challenges like stress by speaking to a Quitline counsellor about helpful stress management techniques.

Techniques to manage stress:

  • When you notice negative thoughts, write them down and challenge them.
  • Take notice of your positive or helpful thoughts too. How do they impact on how you feel, and what outcome do they have?
  • Make a list of music for different needs like music to relax, music to boost your confidence or music to dance to. Music can be a helpful way of changing the way you feel.
  • Creating new, more flexible ways of thinking help you break the cycle. You can learn skills that help you to consciously improve your mood.
  • Consider involving your family or a close friend in health professional sessions. This can help to provide another support network in your life to manage stressful times, and develop a collective solution to problems you face.

Quitline can also be your support.

We are here from 8.30 am to 8.00 pm, Monday to Friday—just ring on 13 78 48 or continue to visit www.quitlinesa.org.au.  You can request a call-back if you have a mobile, or request a counsellor you feel most comfortable with.