Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno recently used her shotgun style prose to take the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to school.
While addiction is part of CAMH’s mandate, not everyone who seeks help there has arrived to engage in a smoking cessation program.
True, smoking tobacco is addictive. Its negative health consequences are well documented.
CAMH has been escalating its war on tobacco for some time, starting with the elimination of smoking rooms back in 2003. Since then they have prohibited patients from smoking anywhere on the property – both inside and out. Now the patients are told they cannot even store their ciggys in lockers on site, even if they have to run out into the streets to actually smoke them.
April 18 DiManno called CAMH’s war on tobacco a “pathology,” noting derisively that they (CAMH) “can act as coercively as they please against some of the most vulnerable people among us and call it a matter of health.”
“A psychiatric institution should not be in the business of further traumatizing those who are already suffering, and certainly not by all but criminalizing an off-premises smoke break,” DiManno writes.
Staff was told in a memo last week that they would have to explain to “clients” that CAMH is now tobacco free and that no tobacco is allowed anywhere onsite. Further, they should discuss nicotine replacement therapy and be prepared to either mail, store (presumably until discharge), or destroy the patient’s cigarettes.
The memo appears to assume that staff has never engaged with Canada Post before, and describes in detail the process:
1. Write the client’s home address on bubble mailer.
2. Enter (unit) budget code in top right corner of bubble mailer (for postage)(The account number is given on the memo)
3. Place all of the client’s tobacco products in the bubble mailer and seal it.
4. Place envelope in outgoing mail.
For many patients, arriving as an inpatient at CAMH is the culmination of one of the worst periods in their lives.
While we are no fan of smoking in general, it appears cruel to deny patients access to this one small comfort at such a difficult time.
Some of these patients are already agitated as a result of their mental illness. Compounding it under the circumstances also poses a risk for everyone present, staff and patients alike.
Let’s treat people for the reasons they came to the hospital in the first place.
Smoking cessation can wait for another day when the patients are themselves motivated to take it on. It shouldn’t be a mandatory add-on.
“All need help and compassion, therapeutic intervention, a temporary refuge from the inner storm,” writes Rosie.
We couldn’t agree more.