"Contrasting experiences: quitting smoking and mental health problems"

About: Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust / Adult mental health Sheffield PCT / Stop smoking service

(as the patient),

I had very contrasting experiences of using two different health services within Sheffield NHS.

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to quit smoking. I went to my GP to ask about nicotine replacement products and was told that in order to be prescribed some, I would need to attend smoking cessation classes first.

The referral to the cessation classes was very quick and there was less than two weeks between me attending that GP's appointment and going to my first class. The classes were held at the GP's practice, so it was a convenient place for me to get to. They were also held in the evenings, which was handy for me as I work during the day. I found the classes useful and was eventually able to quit smoking. I haven't touched a cigarette since.

What a different experience when I developed severe depression and worsening of an existing anxiety problem. I received very little help from the different GPs I saw other than medication. One GP told me in not as many words to pull myself together. When asking about referral for therapy, I was told there was no point as the waiting list was too long. Eventually I was referred to a group anxiety management course, but was waiting almost THREE YEARS to attend this course. The course was held at a location that was not very convenient for me - if I did not have use of the car then I had to get two buses and then walk a distance. The classes were also during the day, so I had to take time off work.

Although I found the classes quite helpful I feel I would have benefited from attending them earlier. I still have anxiety and the depression feels like a black cloud that could come back over at any moment.

From my experiences mental health seems to be the poor relation in Sheffield. I realise that the NHS stands to save more money from people quitting smoking than from helping people's mental health, but my own mental health problems have the greatest impact on my quality of life. I would cut off my right arm - or even resume smoking! - if I was told that doing so would eliminate the depression and anxiety forever.

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