Personal Helpers and Mentors Shoalhaven

Personal Helpers and Mentors ShoalhavenOne Door Mental Health

Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) Shoalhaven, part of the One Door Mental Health, is a mental health program that helps consumers to reconnect with their community. PHaMs works with consumers on a personal level by supporting family relationships, providing outreach services, referrals to key services such as housing and drug and alcohol agencies, and recovery and goal planning.

Almost two-thirds of people with a severe mental illness smoke tobacco, opening themselves up to smoking-related diseases and conditions that cut their life expectancy by decades.1 They smoke to cope with stress, boredom, side-effects of medication and life difficulties, and because they’re addicted. But changes to health facility regulations no longer allow mental health patients to smoke, which is only adding to their burden of stress and compromising treatment.

One Door Mental Health (previously Schizophrenia Fellowship NSW) recognised the growing need to address smoking with their consumers. Through their regional program that helps consumers to reconnect with their community, Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) Shoalhaven, they not only expanded the services they offer; they revolutionised the way smoking was viewed by staff and consumers alike.

What did they do?

PHaMs Shoalhaven addressed every element of the Cancer Council NSW’s Tackling Tobacco program during the project, with particular focus on policies, training and ongoing support for those who want to quit smoking.

Revising policies and procedures
One Door Mental Health conducted an organisation-wide review of policies and procedures relating to smoking, which resulted in a new smoking policy.

Staff training
Staff training was undertaken first with managers and then regionally with service staff. The focus of the training was on increasing staff skill levels in relation to assessing and supporting service users who want to quit.

Running quit-support groups
Tackling Tobacco helped PHaMs Shoalhaven establish a support group for program participants who wanted to quit smoking, had already quit or had relapsed. The weekly sessions were facilitated by two PHaMs Shoalhaven workers over a period of about six months.

Providing nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) was provided free of charge to participants in the support group, and they were able to collect their NRT each session they attended.

What was the result?

The changes for both consumers and PHaMs Shoalhaven workers have been significant.

The training changed staff members’ approach to talking about smoking with consumers. They were particularly affected by understanding the disproportionate effects of smoking on people with mental health issues.

“…research was showing that people with mental illness were dying 20 to 25 years earlier than the general population, and they were dying from physical problems, not mental problems, and that had a lot to do with smoking.”
– PHaMs Shoalhaven program manager

Consumers felt the weekly support group was very helpful, particularly hearing about other people’s struggles, hearing their tips and strategies, learning about addiction and understanding their own motivations and triggers. The provision of NRT through the support group was also vital to some participants. For some, the removal of the financial barrier to NRT meant the difference between attempting to quit and continuing to smoke.

“It made a big difference. Without that support in our lives things become overwhelming. Family support I don’t have. Friends I don’t have. With the group, it’s having the chance to talk to someone who’s going through exactly the same thing.”
– Paul, consumer

Through the Tackling Tobacco Program, Personal Helpers and Mentors Shoalhaven is giving mental health consumers the smoking care and support they’ve been missing—support to change their lives.



(1)   Morgan VA, Waterreus A, Jablensky A, Mackinnon A, McGrath JJ, Carr V, et al. People living with psychotic illness 2010: report on the second Australian national survey. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2011.


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