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There is a shocking correlation between tobacco use and mental illness

Andres Siimon

Quitting smoking might not seem to fit in with mental health. But there is a shocking—and little-known—correlation between tobacco use and mental illness. In Wichita, it is estimated that those living with mental illness are 3 times more likely to use tobacco than the general population. And the more serious the mental illness, the higher the rate of tobacco use, to the point that up to 85% of those living with schizophrenia use tobacco in some form. In fact, this rate of use is believed to be the single largest contributor to the 25-year reduction in life expectancy for those who live with mental illness.

In the very short term, nicotine may provide a small amount of relief from some symptoms of mental illness. But because the effects are short term – and because of the addictive properties and the tolerance that our bodies build up to chemicals like nicotine – people use more and more of these products. Often, the effects of the original mental illness combined with the structural changes that addictive chemicals make to our brains form a co-occurring disorder where these two issues now feed upon each other, collectively and exponentially worsening the mental condition of the individual. This is to say nothing of $1.2 billion in health effects that tobacco causes on its own right here in Kansas.

Fortunately, some comprehensive mental health care centers include smoking cessation programs that are available not only to their consumers, but to all Wichitans who are ready to take this important step toward holistic health. And if you don’t smoke, please learn about the resources available locally to help those you love.

Links to mental health resources are at MHANational.org.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.