Authors: Sharon Lawn
Event: 2001 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Human Rights And Ethics, Drugs & alcohol and mental health, book of proceedings
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Within mental health services, the entrenched nature of smoking activity within all settings is
overwhelming. Smoking is a tool serving many purposes for both staff and patients. It provides a central structure to all other routines and processes and is woven into the central fabric of daily life, encompassing social, political, and economic exchange. Within a system dominated by routines and external controls, the ability to smoke provides patients with one of the few opportunities to act autonomously. For staff, the use of cigarettes to manage patients’ behaviour and illness symptoms, for protection against assault and abuse, to reward and modify behaviour is also apparent. These are some of the themes to emerge from qualitative grounded theory analysis of interviews with 24 clients and 26 staff of community and inpatient settings, combined with a lengthy participant observation of the settings, including community hostels. This paper will explore these themes and highlight the legal, ethical, and occupational health and safety implications of not acting to address and overcome the existing culture of smoking within psychiatric services. Within a climate of increasing potential for litigation, greater consumer participation and partnership in care and hopes to reduce the stigma of mental illness, combined with greater pressure for a non-smoking community, seeking solutions to this problem is timely.