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Who is Mental Health, Public Health and Dental Services: Mental Health?

Mental Health, Public Health and Dental Services (MHPHDS) Mental Health is part of the North Metropolitan Health Service (NMHS).

MHPHDS Mental Health contains Western Australia’s largest mental health service caring for youths, adults and older adults. Services are delivered through inpatient units, community mental health clinics and day therapy and outreach programs to a catchment area of almost 1 million people.

State-wide and Tertiary Mental Health Services include research, forensics, neurosciences, art therapy, eating disorders and other specialised services.

Our Mission is to create an environment where individuals, their families and carers, communities and services work together to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of all consumers in our care.

How will this project help you achieve your mission and vision?

In Australia, while the prevalence of smoking is declining in the general community, it remains high among people with mental illness. Compared with the general population, people with mental illness have higher smoking rates, higher levels of nicotine dependence, and a disproportionate health and financial burden from smoking with rates varying, depending on the type of mental illness and how severe it is.

While the Smoke Free WA Health System Policy supports smoke-free health services, it includes a partial exemption for involuntary adult mental health patients under certain conditions.

In order to protect mental health patients, staff and visitors from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, the MHPHDS Executive committed to creating a totally smoke-free health service (i.e. the exemption for involuntary mental health inpatients will no longer be applied).

The Smoke Free Mental Health project was led by the North Metropolitan Public Health Unit, in partnership with Cancer Council WA and the Australian Council Smoking Health (ACOSH).

What difference will this project make for:

1. People accessing MHPHDS Mental Health services?

Patients, staff and visitors will no longer be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke on the grounds of MHPHDS Mental Health services. Patients will be routinely assessed for nicotine dependence on admission and offered a range of behavioural and pharmacological interventions to support them to abstain from smoking.  These have been shown to be effective in helping patients in the short term and also benefit them long term to maintain the changes in their smoking behaviour.

2. Staff at MHPHDS Mental Health services?

New MHPHDS Mental Health Smoking Care Guidelines provide guidance to staff caring for patients – from their initial assessment to discharge and beyond, in order to effectively address nicotine dependence in a supportive and evidence-based manner.  This was a key component of the Smoke Free Mental Health project.

MHPHDS Mental Health clinical staff have received training on the new Guidelines developed and delivered in partnership with Cancer Council WA, to build their capacity and confidence to manage nicotine dependence in patients who smoke whilst an inpatient.

Incidentally, some staff and patients have now reconsidered their smoking behaviours and have subsequently reduced or quit smoking. The environment in which staff are working has also become safer with more promotion of smoke-free areas and an increased awareness of the harms of environmental tobacco smoke.

A group of people posing for a photo in front of a larege screen with a projection on it and multiple pull-up banners for different organisations.
NMHS Board members with MHPHDS staff and partners involved in the planning and preparations to go totally smoke-free.

Greatest learnings and achievements?

New policies and practices ensure nicotine dependent mental health inpatients are now given the support they need to reduce and cease smoking whilst in the care of MHPHDS Mental Health Services.

Jo Fagan, Director Public Health and Chair of the Smoke Free Mental Health Steering Group said that while the decision to go smoke-free is important in preventing the exposure to environmental tobacco smoke for staff and patients, the decision to go totally smoke-free also came with the responsibility of ensuring nicotine dependent patients receive the support and care they need whilst residing on a smoke-free site.

“A total of 110 people across MHPHDS were involved in the planning and preparations to go smoke-free,” she said.

Supported by a Steering Group, eight working groups were established to focus on key areas of the project including communication of the policy change to staff and mental health stakeholders, environmental changes such as signage, and training and capacity building,” Ms Fagan said.

“Over 400 MHPHDS Mental Health clinical staff have already completed face-to-face training, and a smoke-free intranet hub has also been developed for staff,” she said.


Click on each of the priority areas below to find out what MHPHDS Mental Health services is achieving.


If you have already started making smoking history at your service, we want to hear from you! Sharing stories is a great way for us to learn from each other and broaden our impact. Contact us today.

Note: Only stories that meet our program principles can be shared on our website and in our e-news.

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