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Posts from the ‘Community’ Category

Survey: What do people think of our tobacco free policy?

by Lilian Riad-Allen

In the cigar shop that doubled as a convenience store by my first residence in university, I remember the old cigarette ads plastered across the wall: Doctors in white coats promoting their favourite brand of cigarettes, children and even babies in cigarette ads, and women talking about the weight loss benefits of smoking.

I was always intrigued by these images as they seemed to reflect a reality that I couldn’t imagine. Attitudes had shifted so much since then that the idea of a physician advocating for tobacco use seemed almost satirical.

Attitudes have indeed been shifting. Since the first US surgeon general’s report in 1964[1] , the number of people smoking has been in constant decline to where we are now, 50 years later, with approximately 17 per cent of Canadians still smoking.

When you compare that to the number of people with mental health and addiction issues who smoke, you see a striking difference – with an estimated smoking prevalence of over 60 per cent.

The relationship between smoking and mental health is a complicated one, with a long history of behavioural reinforcements in mental health agencies and cognitive benefits offered by nicotine.

>> See: Tobacco research and treatment: We’ve come a long way

However, research has consistently confirmed that people living with a mental illness have an interest in quitting smoking, and can be as successful at quitting as those without a mental illness.

As CAMH is transitioning to a tobacco free environment, the project team wanted to explore the attitudes of both patients and staff – and the results were somewhat surprising.

What do staff members think of a tobacco free CAMH?

With 450 staff members responding to a brief survey, here’s what they had to say:

  • 81% agree/strongly agree that addressing tobacco use at CAMH is important
  • 71% of agree/strongly agree that they support a tobacco free CAMH
  • 69% agree/strongly agree that going tobacco free will open dialogue about quitting smoking
  • 59% responded with uncertainty (undecided/unsure) or disagreement (disagree or strongly disagree) to the statement “I am confident that the tobacco free policy at CAMH will be successful”
  • 43% agree/strongly agree to the statement “I am concerned that smoking cessation could exacerbate client/patient symptoms”
  • 46% of staff agree/strongly agree that tobacco free policies will make tobacco users feel stigmatized

From these responses, it’s clear that:

  1. Staff members realize the benefits of being tobacco free
  2. They are not confident that our tobacco free initiative will be successful
  3. They have concerns about exacerbating patient symptoms and stigmatization

These responses clearly indicate that as a project, the tobacco free initiative needs to focus on clinical care strategies and supports in order to be successful. These results also indicate that we need to continue to engage and support staff in order to gain their confidence in the success of this project.

What do patients think of a tobacco free CAMH?

Even more importantly, we anonymously surveyed 123 patients (both in- and outpatients) – and almost half (42 percent) said they are smokers. Here’s what they had to say:

  • 79% of patients agree/strongly agree that tobacco free policies will lead to better health
  • 70% of patients agree/strongly agree that stopping smoking is important for them
  • 59% of patients agree/strongly agree that they support the tobacco free policy at CAMH
  • 69% of patients agree/strongly agree that they will not smoke on CAMH property
  • 54% of patients agree/strongly agree that they can get supports to follow the policy
  • 65% of patients disagree/strongly disagree that stopping smoking could make their illness worse
  • 48% of patients agree/strongly agreed that the tobacco free policy at CAMH will be successful
  • 44% of patients agree/strongly agree that tobacco free policies will make tobacco users feel stigmatized

Incredibly, we see a comparable level of support from patients and even a higher level of confidence that we will be successful at becoming tobacco free (48 per cent of patients agree compared to only 40 per cent of staff).

We also see a high level of disagreement that stopping smoking will worsen patient symptoms, indicating that despite staff concerns over worsening patient symptoms, patients don’t appear to agree with this concern.

Of note, however, is that we see comparable levels of concern over stigmatization of tobacco users, which again speaks to the need for this approach to be clinical in nature.

These survey results coupled with staff feedback that this change is improving air quality and reducing tobacco triggers for those making changes to their tobacco use are inspiring and useful.

Clearly changes are being made, and in the same way that those old cigarette ads now seem antiquated, it will soon seem incredible that tobacco use was permitted on hospital properties.

What supports can CAMH put in place to improve tobacco free outcomes without stigmatizing tobacco users?

Related posts:

What can we do to stop physician burnout in Canada?

by Stephen Kish

We all know about the long wait times when we visit family doctors in Canada.

This is a special problem in psychiatry as most psychiatric help is provided by these first line treatment providers.

Now we are told that physician “burnout” (exhaustion, cynicism, and low professional accomplishment) will only make matters worse and the lines longer.

Carolyn Dewa, who heads the CAMH Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Mental Health, and Dr. Philip Jacobs from the Institute of Health Economics in Alberta recently published an estimate in BMC Health Services Research of the percentage of physicians in Canada who are suffering from burnout and the consequences associated with this stress.

Read more

The do’s and don’ts of summer nutrition

by Lola Teelucksingh, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

Lady holding a comically small ice cream cone

Treats are ok, but go for small sizes! Okay, maybe not that small :) Photo: Edited Itsy Bitsy Cone by Brian Pirie

Are those iced-cappuccinos, juicy BBQ burgers, or late night trips to Dairy Queen taunting you?

Are you having difficulty staying on track with your healthy eating during the dog days of summer?

It’s not easy to make healthy choices when there are so many delectable summer treats available. Here are some simple tips to help you make healthy choices, while still enjoying the occasional summer treat! Read more

Be Safe app for youth: A community creating change

by Erin Schulthies


Be Safe was first developed for young people in London Ontario, to help them navigate the mental health system. If you’re interested in adapting for your city, contact mindyourmind

On April 1st, the London branch of the Systems Improvement through Service Collaboratives launched the Be Safe app, a tool to help youth in crisis.

With both a smartphone version and a printable paper pocket guide (pdf), it is versatile for both young people and their mental health care providers.

I should know. After 13 years in London’s mental health care system, knowing the essentials of my needs in crisis is key to weathering my storms.

The Be Safe app helps me keep my personal information close at hand and helps me choose where to turn should I need extra support.

I am proud to say that I was part of the team that developed this app from the beginning, along with other youth with lived experience. Read more

Eating your way to a better mood

by Christina Zavaglia, Registered Dietitian

Summer is here and with it comes energy and a sense of renewal.

Our summer season is far too short but maintaining a balanced diet can help you improve your mood and energy levels too – ensuring you make the most of the summer days.

Food provides us with energy in the form of calories, obtained from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Here are some ways food affects our mood. Read more


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