Almost half of the 443,000 Americans who die each year from smoking have mental illness and/or a substance abuse disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported in March 2013 that approximately 40 percent of all the cigarettes made in the United States are smoked by individuals with mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. A 2013 tobacco utilization survey conducted by the Institute of Disability Studies (IDS) at The University of Southern Mississippi in collaboration with the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) at the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Mississippi Department of Mental Health showed that 66.2 percent of more than 1,000 adults served by the state’s regional community mental health or alcohol and drug treatment centers smoked or used tobacco. Of this population, 58.1 percent indicated that they want to quit. About 1 in 5 Mississippi adults have some form of mental illness.
This Mississippi survey also explored the barriers that prevent adults with mental health issues from accessing tobacco cessation information and resources as well as the motivations for quitting. In addressing barriers, 43.3 percent of survey respondents said they did not want to stop smoking or using tobacco, 25.4 percent cited transportation as a problem for attending programs and 25.1 percent said they didn’t know about the programs available. Motivation for quitting included illness, 42.2 percent; the cost of tobacco products, 36.4 percent; and a loved one requesting them to quit, 25.1 percent.
To address these disparities and concerns, OTC and IDS hosted a statewide Leadership Academy Summit for Wellness and Smoking Cessation on May1-2, in Jackson. OTC and IDS worked with key state agencies, advocates and organizations to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce tobacco usage among behavioral health clients and the staff who serve them. The academy also focused on creating a cooperative, collaborative relationship among the fields of public health, mental health and addictions.