Catherine explores some of the issues that care and support professionals may face in identifying and supporting clients who are harmed by gambling.
The biggest challenge most care and support professionals face when it comes to problem gambling is spotting the signs of gambling harms. Many clients have not spoken to anyone about how gambling may be affecting them or a loved one, and may in fact present to a service such as debt support or their GP without mentioning gambling at all.
Instead, the client may talk about the impacts they are experiencing (such as anxiety, stress, relationship issues, debt), without elaborating on the cause. There are some cases, such as a client experiencing domestic violence, when the discussion may be quite open – i.e. this only happens when they lose – however for the most part, it isn’t until you dig a little deeper that you begin to understand that the problem might just be gambling.
So – what questions can you ask, when do you ask them, and what can you do if someone is being harmed by gambling?
It’s worth asking about gambling in most situations, however especially so if you note evidence of uncontrolled spending or debts, withdrawal from family or social activities, issues with relationships, or problems at work or in education.
The GambleAware General Screening Tool (GAST-G) asks four questions which can help determine whether someone is being harmed by gambling. In the last 12 months, have you:
- Bet more than you could really afford to lose?
- Been criticised for your betting, or been told that you have a gambling problem?
- Felt guilty about the way you gamble, or what happens when you gamble?
- Been affected by someone else’s gambling?
If these questions are too much all at once, it may help to start with something simpler – such as “Is gambling affecting you, or those close to you?” – to open up the conversation.
Some clients may readily accept that gambling is having a negative impact on their lives, and they may actively want to change this. The National Gambling HelpLine is a good place to start, as our Advisers can listen to what’s going on for your client (whether they are the gambler or affected by someone else’s gambling), and advise on all the options available for support in the local area, online and over the phone.
You can also make a referral into our free treatment services across England, Scotland and Wales if you have the client’s written consent. We also offer free screening and contact cards which are handy to give to clients so that they have the number and web address close to hand if they want to contact us themselves.
Some clients may not have acknowledged the impact that gambling is having in their lives, perhaps even despite their loved ones becoming increasingly concerned. Our self-assessment tool may be helpful to better understand how gambling may be harming them.
It may sometimes be the case that fear of the consequences when people find out about their situation may stop people asking for help with their gambling. Please do direct your clients to our site – it may help for them to read through some of our Forum, or join a chatroom to connect with others and explore the issue for themselves. Users can remain anonymous to other users if they wish to, but it can help to hear how other people have dealt with similar experiences to give them confidence.
We also have self-help resources available for gamblers who would like to change their relationship with gambling. This includes maps and worksheets you can print out for your clients if needed.
Do reassure your client, the first steps to making a positive change can often feel like the hardest – but the sooner they make them, the sooner they can make progress. They don’t have to do this alone.
If you and/or your colleagues would like to find out more about training offered by GamCare, click here. You can also contact our Advisers at any time if you would like additional information, advice or support.
You can also find information about other specialist organisations dealing with issues like debt, housing or relationship issues via our links page, and we have a range of support leaflets available to order free of charge.