Dear Mr Broughton – as probably the strongest anti-smoking advocate on the Hamilton City Council over the last decade or so, I have to say I am absolutely appalled at your knee-jerk, thoughtless reaction to the issue raised with you by the Waikato Times reporter, as published today
Some of your comments show that you, and perhaps your organisation, are unable to see the wood for the trees in this situation, or perhaps it should be that you are unable to see the cigarette for the smoke haze.
Your suggestion that I would be “making it easier for patients to smoke” is insulting to me, and demonstrates that you know little or nothing about the drivers of acute mental illness – the reason that people are admitted to the acute mental health units in Hospitals, such as the one I am talking about.
My son Nicky, 21, died as a direct result of being sent off the Waikato Hospital campus, unescorted, while a known suicide risk, to smoke; when there was (and is) a perfectly good safe outside courtyard area that he could have been in.
Last week, Chelsea Brunton, 19, died in very similar circumstances, after being required to go unescorted outside Palmerston North Hospital’s mental health unit for a smoke.
Smoking is an addiction. While some people may be able to quit it cold turkey, many cannot. My son was one of these – he was attempting, when well, to give it up; when not well, that was the furthest thing from his mind.
The last time I saw my son alive, I made the mistake of getting annoyed with him because he was chain-smoking; I bitterly regret that, because my last words to him were not kind. Had I worried more at that point about how well he was, rather than the fact that he was smoking, my last words to him would have been much more positive!
The reason people are in acute mental health care is because they are experiencing major problems with their thought processes, and are unable to properly care for themselves – Blind Freddy (but apparently not ASH) can see that this would not be the right time or place to enforce an anti-smoking policy.
Now that I am also an elected Waikato DHB member, I invite you to attend the Waikato DHB meeting next Wednesday (24 May) to listen to the discussion that I will be raising.
In case you have not seen it, below is the report of your comments:
Acting on Smoking and Health (Ash) spokesman Boyd Broughton said Macpherson’s proposal would not be in the best interest of the patients.
“There’s research that shows that people with mental health issues, they want to stop smoking just as much as people without mental health issues.
“I would encourage them to investigate other options before implementing change that encourages the continuation of smoking,” Broughton said.
Broughton said decreasing the prevalence of smoking in mental health units has been neglected, even during the 1990 Smoke Free Environment Act.
He said he would like to see more access to nicotine replacement therapy in mental health units before anyone looked at making it easier for patients to smoke.
“There needs to be more support,” Broughton said. “It benefits everyone if they can stop.”
Dave Macpherson is TDB’s mental health blogger. He became a Waikato DHB member after his son died from mental health incompetence.