Gambling can impact people from all walks of life, and at some point a person you know may show signs of being impacted by their gambling. Employers and work colleagues can often notice that something is not right during the early stages, and by approaching the situation thoughtfully can help the person being impacted. Sometimes people call us asking what to do about a workmate who they suspect is being affected by gambling.
Why it is hard to know for sure
When someone is experiencing problems with their gambling, it can take time before anyone notices because they may go to great lengths to hide it. People get caught in a vicious cycle of gambling, which is difficult to stop despite having the best intentions to do so. With access to money, the gambling urge can become overwhelming and any decision to stop or to consider the consequences is difficult.
Once the person realises what they have done they can experience feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt. These feelings may be related to their repeated disappointment at having gambled again, and seeing the impacts on those around them. For many people, these feelings can prevent them from reaching out for help, for fear of being criticised or humiliated. This can frustrate those around them.
It’s a difficult cycle to break alone
Support is important. A person impacted by gambling may feel alone, overwhelmed and yet not ready to reach out for help. Simply letting the person know you’re there for support if needed is an important first step. When the person is ready for support from trained professionals, having a network around them that understands and wants to assist can be very encouraging.
Five signs to look for
If you suspect a colleague or employee is being affected by their gambling, here are some signs to look for:
- Secrecy – are they being vague and secretive about where they are going or disappearing for long periods of time
- Unexplained absences – does your colleague spend excessive time away from the job? For example, unusual amounts of sick leave or regular half-days off work that can’t be explained. Or do they often arrive late, leave early or take long lunch breaks?
- Changes in performance – does it seem like they are unable to focus and do their job effectively, are distracted or disengaged from their work?
- Financial Stress – are they often short of money or asking to borrow money, or not being able to meet day to day needs, such as petrol and food?
- Changes in behaviour – are they moody or distracted? When a person is going through issues with gambling, it’s likely they are experiencing strong urges to gamble, and feeling stressed and anxious about accessing enough money to do this.
While the above signs are not unique to gambling issues, they are a good indicator there might be an issue.
Seven ideas to help you
If you are concerned about a friend or colleague’s gambling, some ideas for support are:
- Call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 585 to get advice about how to start that conversation. The helpline counsellors can explain what to say to help you get through to them.
- Have a plan before talking to them. Choose an appropriate time and place – somewhere private and where they won’t feel cornered or attacked. Start the conversation in a supportive way, for example:
- I just wanted to check in with you.
- I’ve noticed you have seemed to be struggling lately.
- Write down what you would like to say to the person before having the conversation. Practice saying it aloud, or consider giving them a letter if you think this would be a less confrontational way to approach them.
- Approach things in a supportive manner and an open mind, rather than criticising or attacking. As a colleague or employer, it is important to preserve that relationship and ensure the person understands that you want to help.
- Find resources for the person. Whether it is sending them an email with a link to this website, or gamblinghelpnsw.org, or contact details for the Gambling Helpline 1800 858 858.
- Free financial counsellors are also available if a person is having difficulties due to their gambling. This service can provide support with debts and budgeting.
- Remember that some people may not be ready to stop gambling straight away. The important thing is letting them know that it is possible to change, and help is available when they want it.
For more advice about how to support a person who is gambling, please call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 for individualised advice.
A trained counsellor can speak with you about what the next step is, and can organise a face to face appointment if you’d like.