Smoking and Mental Illness

People with behavioral health conditions are more likely to smoke. Psychologists are among those working to understand why and helping them quit.

Chad Morris, PhD, didn’t begin his career with tobacco in mind. His wake-up call came while reviewing best practices for treating bipolar disorder.

“I had this aha moment when I realized: What’s the one thing you have to be to benefit from the best services?” says the associate professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Colorado Denver. “The bottom line is, you have to be alive.”

But for people with mental illnesses, just staying alive can be challenging: People with serious mental illness treated in the public health system die a startling 25 years earlier than those without mental illness, according to a 2006 article in Preventing Chronic Disease. The problem hasn’t improved in the years since, Morris notes, and all too often, smoking is part of that mortal equation.

Tobacco-related illnesses including cancer, heart disease and lung disease are among the most common causes of death in this population. And Americans with mental illnesses have a 70 percent greater likelihood of smoking than the general population, according to new findings from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Feb. 8). People with mental illnesses also smoke more often than smokers without mental illness, says Tim McAfee, MD, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health and a co-author of the report. “We can’t just ignore this population.”

Read the rest of the article by Kirsten Weir at the APA website.

NAMI Family-to-Family Educational Program Class 3 Relaxation Exercise

Sit comfortably, close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax. (pause)

Begin to tense the muscles of the feet, legs and hips.

Tense… Tense… Hold that tension… and quickly… relax. (pause)

Begin to tense the muscles of the stomach, chest and back.

Tense… Tense… Hold that tension… and quickly…  relax. (pause)

Begin to tense the muscles of the shoulders, arms and hands.

Tense…Tense… Make two fists… and hold that tension…and quickly… relax.  (pause)

Count backward from 100 to 0 and when you get to 0, you will be in a very deep state of relaxation.  (COUNT VERY SLOWLY) 100, 99, 98 and deeper, 97, 96, 95, and more relaxed, 94, 93, 92, 92, 90…(pause) and now down to 80, and more relaxed, (pause) to 70… and now down to 60… 50, (pause) and down to 40, and deeper, (pause) to 30, 20, 10… (COUNT VERY SLOWLY) nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… and now, a very deep state of relaxation, zero… (WAIT)

Take a deep breath and relax even more… (WAIT)

You will find that you are especially alert and relaxed;  and if you are driving, you will find that you drive especially well and safely.  (WAIT)

Count from zero to 10.  When you reach 10, you will find yourself back to normal consciousness, feeling refreshed and alert, with a sense of wellbeing.  Zero (COUNT VERY SLOWLY)… one… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten.  Open your eyes and look around and return to normal consciousness.

NAMI Hearts and Minds – A Roadmap to Wellness for Individuals Living with Mental Illness

The NAMI Hearts & Minds program is an educational wellness initiative promoting the idea of wellness in both mind and body.  Generally wellness is an ongoing process of learning about and making choices toward a more successful life.

Engaging in a wellness effort can make a huge difference in the quality of our lives.  Wellness is about the individual;  you can decide what parts of your life you would like to change and you can determine your own level of success.


14 Principles For Family Members On How To Cope

1 Realize that mental illness is not rare.

2 Learn as much as possible, as soon as possible.

3 Don’t blame yourself – it can destroy your chances of coping forever.

4 Seek professional helpers who are effective.

5 Contact a self-help group for families.

6 Accept that mental illness is complex. Our natural instincts can be an unreliable guide. Relatives need training.

7 Get to know the origins of pressures to which family members are subject.

8 Pay special attention to the needs of other members of the family.

9 Remember that unlimited, unconditional self-sacrifice on behalf of someone with a mental illness is fatal to effective caring and coping.

10 Be aware that spending massive amounts of time with the person who has a mental illness can make matters worse.

11 Maintain friendships, activities and hobbies, particularly those that will take you outside the home.

12 Set your sights on appropriate independence for your relative and yourself.

13 Don’t be surprised to find that the ability to change and look at things differently distinguishes relatives who can cope from those who can’t.

14 Take very good care of yourself.

Volunteering Can Boost Physical and Mental Health

People in general are happier and healthier and may even live a little longer, when they’re contributing” to their community or an organization they are passionate about, said study author, Stephen G. Post, PhD.  He is director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York.

“The research on the benefits of giving is extremely powerful, to the point that suggests health care professionals should consider recommending such activities to patients.”  “Just by taking a vacation from your stress and problems and turning your attention to helping someone else, is a tremendously healthy thing,” said Post.

The report is the fifth annual article in which Post examines the most recent research on the health impact of altruism (

About Laughter Yoga: Laughter for Wellness

Laughter Yoga is a revolutionary new technology whereby anyone can laugh, without the need for comedy, jokes, or humor.  Yogic breathing is integrated with laughter as a form of exercise; the resultant practice delivers numerous health benefits.

Laughter Yoga was created by Dr. Madan Kataria (a physician from India) in collaboration with his wife Madhuri (a yoga teacher) in 1995.

Laughing feels great, and it is good for your health:  laughter can enhance the immune system, undo many of the negative effects of stress and improve cardiovascular health.

Frequently-reported benefits include relief of depression and anxiety, and better resistance to disease.  Participants live life more joyfully, and find themselves better able to cope with whatever stresses life may bring them.  About Laughter Yoga.