National Mental Health Awareness Month

OLEAN – New studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that people with mental illness are 70 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes than others.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Southern Tier Health Care System Inc. CEO Donna Kahm said it’s a good time to remind the public that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in New York.

“Smoking kills an average of 25,000 New Yorkers each year,” she said. “These are all preventable deaths and we have an obligation to help those who want to quit, particularly those struggling with mental health issues.”

The studies found that people with mental illness smoke nearly half of all cigarettes produced, but are only half as likely to quit as other smokers. As a result, they are also more likely to die prematurely from smoking than from their mental health condition.

Most alarming is data from a New York state survey that suggests that smoking rates among people with mental illness have not changed over the past 10 years while the smoking rates among people with no mental illness has decreased.

National Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to look at all the issues surrounding mental health. Many smokers who struggle with mental health issues want to quit, but are less likely to quit and may need additional support and cessation assistance.

The most effective method to quit smoking or using tobacco utilizes a combination of counseling, social support and nicotine-replacement cessation medication. Discussions about mental health care should include smoking cessation and how to address this serious health issue.

Talk to your doctor about quitting. For additional coaching and tips, contact the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NYQUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit