Typically, January and February are very busy times of the year for our service, with new and existing clients contacting us for help. So, what are some of the ways you can support someone you may suspect has a gambling problem these holidays?
Signs to look out for include spending more time gambling, gambling to get out of debt, borrowing money or having problems paying bills or expenses. They might start selling personal items such as the TV or stereo, being secretive about money or where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. They might start to avoid you or other family members and become withdrawn, tell lies or offer excuses.
It can be hard for the person with the problem to talk about their gambling. There may be a lot of emotions involved (for you both) and the person with the gambling problem could be experiencing a lot of guilt. Let them know you care and be specific and supportive, i.e. “I can see you’re not happy at the moment and that upsets me. Can I help?” Listen, let the person know you care about them, that you’ve noticed they’re gambling and how it makes you feel. Approaching someone about their gambling can be hard. If you need support to do this, call PGF Services on 0800 664 262.
3. Don’t enable their gambling
There is a difference between providing someone with support and bailing a person out. Many family members unknowingly support and encourage a person’s gambling by ‘bailing them out’. This could consist of: protecting their image and concealing the problem from family members; lending them money; paying fines or illegal offences; accompanying them to gamble; comforting the gambler about their feelings of guilt; making excuses for the gambler, or even dropping them off and picking them up from a gambling venue. Family members often report enabling these types of activities because they are afraid of hurting the person with the gambling problem. But, covering up a person’s behaviour or bailing them out has been shown to continue and even increase gambling behaviour.
4. Encourage healthy alternatives
When a person is trying to give up gambling, they often don’t know what to do with the spare time they would usually spend gambling. Ways that you can show them you care and provide them with healthy alternatives to gambling include spending time together, encouraging them to join a support group, just going for a walk and getting some fresh air, visiting friends and family, or planning social activities together.
If you suspect someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. If you are worried about someone else’s gambling, you can encourage them to seek help and support them in their efforts. PGF Services welcome support people in all their counselling sessions, and our duty counsellors are available for phone counselling. PGF Services will have duty counsellors available by phone on 0800 664 262 on non-statutory days during the holidays or you can call the Gambling Helpline on 0800 654 655 or text 8006.
6. Don’t forget your own wellbeing
If you are impacted by someone else’s gambling, it is important to pay attention to your own and other people in your family’s health and wellbeing. Children are often affected by someone else’s gambling, especially if it is a parent or caregiver who has the gambling problem. Arguments and financial issues can affect children, so it is important to check in and talk with children about how they’re feeling. Remember what is happening is not your fault. Talking to someone who is supportive can help.
For free and confidential help and support call PGF Services on 0800 664 262.
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