I think my friend has a gambling problem, what can I do?
There are lots of families and friends out there who are affected by gambling, and commonly it is not their own gambling but they are worried about someone close to them.
For many family members and friends associated with someone who has a problem with gambling, the relationship is extremely stressful – many experience intense shame, have to cope with financial difficulties, anger and abuse. Many are frustrated that they unable to get the person with the gambling problem to go and get help.
According to the 2010 Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Gambling, each year there are an estimated 115,000 Australian adults suffering significant problems from their gambling and a further 280,000 people with moderate risks that may make them vulnerable to problem gambling.
Problem gambling occurs when a person’s gambling causes harm to themselves and/or to those around them such as partners, family members, friends, or others in the community. When gambling begins to take up more money and time than a person can afford, this tends to affect many areas of their lives.
The person with the gambling problem may experience bankruptcy, relationship breakdowns, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and sometimes make attempts on their own life, and they may even commit a crime.
Many of the problems experienced by the person with the gambling problem ripple throughout society. The 2010 Productivity Commission Report acknowledged that for each problem gambler several others are affected including family members, friends, employers and colleagues. According to the Commission, a recent Tasmanian survey found that 50% of people said that they personally knew someone who was experiencing serious problems with gambling and around 13% of people knew at least one family member with a serious gambling problem.
The 2010 Commission reported that there is evidence that some family members and friends can play an important role in identifying gambling problems, though they are often initially unaware of the extent of the gambling problems. Family and friends can help those with a gambling problem with strategies to control their gambling, and refer and encourage the person they are concerned about to seek help services.
If you are a partner, family member or friend of someone with a gambling problem there are a number of things that you can do. While it is important to keep in mind that many people overcome gambling problems, it is vital to remember that you are not responsible, so do not blame yourself. If you have children it is important that they do not feel responsible. Most importantly, keep yourself and your family safe. If you are at risk of harm, have an emergency plan and for help you can contact the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 656 463.
It’s often very difficult to cope alone when a person close to you has a gambling problem. Remember all Gambling Help services are free for family and friends too. You may wish to access information or help and support. Gambling Help services offer free confidential gambling, financial and legal counselling services for partners, family and friends of people with problem gambling, as well as to people with gambling problems.
If you are a partner, family member or friend of someone with a gambling problem there are a number of things that you can do. Visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au
There are several free materials and tools available that can assist you as well as the problem gambler in your life. These include a self-help booklet, online counselling and a DVD. Also available on the site are details of the free, confidential face to face problem gambling, financial and legal services available in your area. Alternatively, you may wish to click the link and talk to a counsellor online. Click here and you’ll find free, immediate, online and email support http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/accessing-support/online-counselling.aspx
It’s also good to remember that the Gambling Help line is available 24 hours a day on 1800 858 858. It’s free if you call from a landline and if you are calling from a mobile they can call you back.