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For partners, friends and family

The first thing friends and family often say when they contact us is ‘What can I do to help them stop?’

It’s not surprising that this might be your top priority, both for their sake and your own.

If your friend, family member or loved one is a problem gambler, you are likely experiencing many strong but possibly conflicting emotions. For example, you could be trying to cover up their gambling, while trying to keep them from gambling more. You might also be angry, depressed about the debt they have run up and afraid that they won’t stop. Gambling, and the loss of trust it often brings, can put an enormous strain on a relationship.

If you find that you feel overwhelmed or are losing hope, it is important to seek professional help. 

GamCare also provides advice and treatment for family members and friends who are affected by a loved one’s gambling behaviour, even if the gambler does not wish to seek support yet. We support you in your own right - contact our Advisers today to talk through all of the options available for you: call Freephone 0808 8020 133 or chat via our NetLine.

How you can support them

Some dos:

  • Remember it is a complicated problem and gamblers cannot ‘just give up’.
  • Let them know you are prepared to support them.
  • Read through the information on the GamCare website about the sources of support available to them and to you.
  • Talk to them about how their gambling affects you. They need to understand the consequences of their gambling and how it makes you feel. Try to avoid doing this when either of you are angry or emotional.
  • Think about what you want to say. It might help to write your feelings and thoughts down so that you are clear in your own mind.
  • Encourage them to talk openly with you.
  • Work with them to establish firm boundaries.
  • Limit the financial impact that gambling has on you. For example, you could separate your bank account and protect your own money.
  • Suggest to them that they call the National Gambling Helpline (Freephone 0808 8020 133 or via web chat on the NetLine).
  • If you believe that they may be thinking about harming themselves, they should seek professional help as soon as possible. Their GP could be the first point of contact.

Some don’ts:

  • Try not to bail them out with loans or cover their gambling losses for them. This may only prolong the problem - they need to be responsible for the consequences for their gambling.
  • If the gambler isn’t ready to stop or has a lapse, don’t blame yourself – only they can be in charge of their recovery.
  • You can respond to requests for financial ‘bailouts’ with an answer that contains these messages: “I care about you and I don’t want you to suffer” or “I’m saying ‘no’ for your own good.”
  • Try not to issue ultimatums. These are rarely effective as they can often increase the sense of guilt and shame a gambler feels about their behaviour.
  • Do not trust them with money until the dependency is broken. If they agree, it may be helpful to manage their money for a short period.
  • Do not condemn them, as this is unhelpful and may drive them back to gambling. However, setting firm and fair boundaries to their behaviour is constructive.

Getting help for yourself

Take time out to get support for you. 

While your family member or friend might swear you to secrecy, this does not allow you to get support and may allow the gambling to continue unchallenged. If you feel you can’t talk to people close to you, you can get confidential support from GamCare.

National Gambling HelpLine – Freephone 0808 8020 133

The HelpLine can give you a safe place to discuss your feelings. Our Advisers can give you advice on:

  • Supporting  your partner, friend or family member
  • Talking to them about their gambling
  • Getting help with debt and financial management
  • Getting counselling or further support for yourself
  • Signposting to other services available in your area

Read more>>

Forum

We also have an online forum for family and friends, where you can share your thoughts with other forum users. The forum is designed first and foremost for you to come together with other people in similar situations, working through similar problems. You might find it helpful to read through other people’s posts or you might like to post your own thread there and receive support from other members of the community.

Read More>>

Treatment

GamCare offers free treatment services for friends and family. It can be helpful to have support even if you are not the person who gambles, to help you cope with the situation.

Read more>>

Support groups

Talking to people, who are going through the same thing you are, can be a really supportive way of getting through this difficult time. GamAnon offers group support meetings’ around the UK, for people who have been affected by a friend or family members gambling.  Visit www.gamanon.org.uk for further details.


Further support

Relate

0300 100 1234 (for information on their services)

www.relate.org.uk


Family Lives

0808 800 2222 (daily, 7am-midnight)

www.familylives.org.uk


NSPCC

Children's charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.

0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)

0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)

www.nspcc.org.uk


Refuge

Advice on dealing with domestic violence.

0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)

www.refuge.org.uk

See our Links page for a full list of other helplines and agencies. You can also call our Helpline for further advice.

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