Another busy week has come to an end at GMA, I think we all felt that this period of lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19 would be extended by the government and as we prepare to face another three weeks of restrictions it is important we focus on our mental wellbeing.
Like many other support services in this field we have seen a drop in traffic on our helpline as well as a decrease in demand for our residential treatment. In contract our ex-residents have expressed a greater need for support, and we have delivered online support groups for them daily attracting over 120 attendees in less than 3 weeks.
Our former service users are aware of their relationship with gambling and through treatment are aware of the fact they need to work on their recovery, this led me to thinking about how the public are managing their relationship with gambling at this time so I’ve shared my thoughts below and hope that anyone concerned about gambling at this time can use the information to seek help.
Gambling harm – Flattening the curve
At what point does gambling become harmful? When does play move from the recreational to the problematic and when should you seek help? From a financial perspective when the player loses more than they wish to or had planned, it is likely they will experience a form of harm. When more is lost than the player can afford this becomes problematic as it will impact on other areas of their lives, the ability to pay bills, worry, stress and strained relationships are examples. Peoples financial situation has changed during this period, some are under increased pressure due to losing work or being furloughed, some have additional disposable income due to the fact that they are no longer able to enjoy weekends away, meals out, sporting events or trips to the pub. The UKGC has asked the industry to act responsibly when carrying out customer affordability checks at this time and many will but with so much fluctuation in peoples circumstances I would urge anyone who gambles not to rely purely on the industry to spot any issues but to be aware of your own spending, how does it compare with what you would spend normally then ask yourself am I ok with that?
Time spent gambling can be another indicator of harm or problematic symptoms, let’s face it many of us are doing things to excess at this time, watching TV/boxsets, gaming, reading, gardening, opening the fridge and staring blankly at its contents, anything to alleviate the boredom right? This can apply to gambling too, despite the closure of land based organisations and the cancellation of sporting events online casinos are still operational and many will enjoy their products as a form of entertainment during this period, but how long does a session of play need to be before there is an issue? Again, whilst operators are urged to increase their social responsibility interactions it is important to access your own time spent gambling, has it increased or decreased during the last few weeks? what could you have been doing but instead chose to gamble? Most importantly, ask yourself am I ok with that?
Behavioural signs of harmful or problematic gambling can be spotted in land-based gambling establishments and staff are trained to identify and interact with anyone displaying these signs but what about online? Analytics and the research into harmful play patterns online has come on leaps and bounds in recent times but as with money and time our behaviour has changed during this period. The UKGC have advised operators to be aware that customers could be more vulnerable at this time, I think it is safe to say that we are all potentially more vulnerable currently and it is important for us to be aware of our mental wellbeing. Ask yourself why you gamble, is it to alleviate boredom, stress, anger, anxiety? How do you feel when you gamble or after gambling? Has a family member commented on your gambling? Are you gambling in secret? If so, why do you feel the need to do that? You may be on your own or in isolation has your gambling behaviour changed due to this and if so, are you ok with that?
Gambling operator’s Customer service teams can advise you on tools to help you stay in control so please ask if you need advice, you can also reach out for free support and advice to www.begambleaware.org www.gamcare.org.uk or phone the national gambling helpline on 08088 020 133 for international support and advice our Gambling Therapy service is operating as usual visit www.gamblingtherapy.org both services offer a self-test based on the problem gambling severity index (PGSI) if you are unsure about your gambling or feel vulnerable these are a good tool. Treatment for problem gambling can still be accessed at this time, if you feel you need help you can call the national problem gambling helpline on 0808 8020 133 or you can apply for a place on one of our treatment programmes at Gordon Moody by visiting our website www.gordonmoody.org.uk or calling us on 01384 241 292. To exclude yourself from online gambling operators you can visit www.gamstop.co.uk or to block gambling sites you can use www.gamban.com please don’t suffer in silence and reach out if you need help.
There will inevitably be a range of “spikes” when restrictions on our lives are lifted. Gym registrations, Restaurant bookings, short breaks, or holidays to name but a few. But what about people seeking treatment for problematic gambling? If you feel your gambling activity or behaviour would cause you a problem under normal circumstances or you are worried about a loved one, please do not wait until restrictions are lifted to do something about it as help is available
Thanks for reading
Look after yourselves everyone, take care of each other and stay safe.