For partners, friends and family
The first thing friends and family often say when they contact the GamCare HelpLine 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.
Getting help for your partner, friend or family member
You may want and need them to stop right now, but pushing them before they’re ready might be counterproductive. You may feel the only option is to make appointments for them, go with them to make sure they attend, or even sit in with them during sessions, but it might not help to rush them or push them to change. Try to wait in the wings until they are ready to seek help and then offer to help them in the way they choose.
The first steps to seeking help can be daunting, but taking these steps for themselves will greatly improve the gambler’s self-esteem, commitment to recovery, and ultimately their success.
If your friend or family member is ready and wants to get help with their gambling, encourage them to contact the National Gambling HelpLine on 0808 8020 133 or find out more about the support on offer here.
How can you support them?
- 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.
- 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.
HelpLine – Freephone 0808 8020 133
The Helpline can give you a safe place to discuss your feelings. Helpline 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
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.
GamCare offers free counselling services for friends and family. It can be helpful to have counselling support even if you are not the person who gambles, to help you cope with the situation.
Talking to people, who are going through the same thing you are, can be a really supportive way of getting through this difficult time. Gam Anon 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.
0300 100 1234 (for information on their services)
0808 800 2222 (daily, 7am-midnight)
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)
Advice on dealing with domestic violence.
0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
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