7 Nov 2014

Study looks into hospital smoking bans and the effect it can have on mental health patients

Hospitals which impose a ban on smoking often make it difficult for health professionals to deal with mental health patients in the emergency department. Hospital emergency departments are challenged by increasing numbers of people with mental health problems presenting with complex suicide or psychiatric risk.

Euan Donley is a PhD student in the Department of Social Work in the School of Primary Health Care who has been working with Eastern Health's emergency services. He notes that social workers are often on the front line of initial assessment of people in mental health crisis presenting to emergency departments.

His study highlights that many mental health patients are smokers and experience poorer health and mortality. Public health policy has seen hospitals become smoke-free, which poses challenges for managing the complexities of risk associated with mental health patients who smoke. 

Emergency department clinical staff were randomly selected to anonymously complete a mixed method analysis questionnaire which found that participants regularly allowed cigarette breaks for mental health patients when considered safe to manage risk associated with difficult behaviors. 

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