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Family & Friends

Gambling Harms Support for Significant Others

Are you a friend or family member of someone you suspect is gambling?

 Are you feeling lonely and isolated without the proper support? 

Gambling Harms does not only impact the gambler themselves but affects significantly on loved ones such as family or friends. It may be difficult to understand the warning signs and to know how to proceed to help support your loved one with gambling harms. SAIGHS  have created a simple flow-chart with relevant information at each point, to support you in recognising warning signs, talking to your loved one, and seeking support for both yourself and the person you are concerned about. 

Key Points to get started:

  1. Educate yourself.

Seeking the correct information is a powerful tool to help those concerned about someone’s gambling. Information helps people to better understand how to look after themselves and the person they are worried about. 

By seeking to educate yourself , you will feel empowered to make well-informed decisions and will be  equipped with information when your significant other decides they are ready to seek help.

By looking at this website, you will be able to have a better understanding of gambling-related problems.

Understanding the warning signs is an excellent place to start.

2. Recognising the Gambling Warning Signs:

There are many signs that might indicate that someone you care about may be struggling with gambling.

Your loved one may start to gamble more frequently and for more extended periods at a time, as gambling starts to occupy more of the person’s thoughts.

 Below are some common warning signs of  that someone may be struggling with gambling: 

Behaviour and Personality Changes:

  • Sudden changes in the person’s priorities and personality. 
  • They might develop other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • They might become withdrawn from friends and family and appear preoccupied.

Financial Changes:

  • They might be asking for money frequently.
  • Large amounts of money may be missing from joint accounts. 
  • Bills and other financial priorities are not kept up to date. 
  • Household or valuables are missing.
  • Secretive behaviour or reactive when discussing finances. 

Routine Changes:

  • Spending more time gambling.
  • Increased unexplained time off work. 
  • Absent for long periods. 
  • Secretive when confronted about unexplained absences. 
  • Being late or  cancelling necessary appointments or commitments. 
  • Avoiding events and social gatherings or missing appointments,
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or sports,
  • Be distant and preoccupied, and disengaged,
  • Emotional changes such as irritability or nervousness,
  • Changes in general appearance, such as hygiene,
  • Changes in concentration resulting in less attention to details,
  • Long absences,
  • Secretive when confronted about unexplained absences,
  • Working back late out of ordinary hours,
  • Not sleeping or eating,
  • Being late or cancelling usually important appointments or commitments. 

  1.  Openly Discuss Your Concerns:

It’s normal to feel many emotions, such as being angry or upset with a person who is gambling. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your concerns with the person you are worried about, we can help you start the conversation. Seeking information is the best place to start – once you feel informed and supported you can then begin the conversation. It is important to verbalise how you are feeling openly and respectably. Here are some tips for how to communicate your concerns:

  • Ensure you actively listen to ensure your loved one feels safe in expressing how they feel. 
  • Be aware that you can’t force someone to stop gambling, even if you think they should.
  • People who gamble need support; the problem is the gambling, not the person. 
  • Remember who the person was before they started gambling.
  • It is not your fault if a friend or a family member has a problem with gambling. 
  • Verbalise how you feel by using ‘I feel statements’. 
  • Discussing gambling is a sensitive and confronting conversation; do not continue engaging in the discussion if either party are angry. 

4) Encourage Professional Supports: recovery is possible:

Gambling can be a serious problem that has many harmful impacts. 

If the person is ready to get the help, you can support them in doing so.

People who engage in the best treatments available for gambling (such as the treatment used at SAIGHS) and complete the therapy can fully recover.

SAIGHS provides free and confidential treatment and support to both the gambler and their significant other.

5) You also need help for yourself

It can be challenging to understand why that person cannot just stop, or why they may be lying and concealing their gambling. It’s normal to feel confused, angry, or upset about someone close to you who is gambling. You may find yourself asking, ‘Is this my fault?’, and ‘how can I help make them stop gambling?’. It is important to understand that this is not your fault.

Often, someone’s gambling can result in people around them feeling undervalued, hurt, and confused. Seeking support for yourself is just as important as a loved one receiving support from their gambling. Self-care is a great way to support yourself, below are some ways that you can practice self-care:

  • Stay connected with friends and family, and this will ensure you have a strong support network to talk to about how you are feeling. 
  • Relax by taking some time out for yourself by treating yourself to a facial, massage, or soothing bath. 

Stay feeling the best you can by ensuring you are eating plenty of healthy and nourishing foods, drinking water, and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy lifestyle and outlook.

Professional Support:
SAIGHS offer a professional and confidential support service for individuals and significant others impacted by the harms of gambling. We can  help people to understand what drives gambling addictions and how they can best support the person they are concerned about.

6) Improving financial resilience

It is essential to protect your finances. People who have a gambling-related problem may use money that is not available to gamble, causing significant financial harms. It is a natural want to help those we care about in their times of need, but the problems that result from gambling can make financial boundaries complicated. You must take steps to protect your financial situation.

  • Discuss a plan with the person how best to limit their access to money.
  • We can provide you with some strategies and help you implement these. 
  • We can also refer you to a specialist gambling financial counsellor who can support you to get back some control of your financial difficulties.  

Enabling can seem like helping.

It is normal to want to help someone close to you struggling with gambling and experiencing the emotional and financial consequences. However, enabling is indirectly facilitating their gambling. You may try to help the person gambling with your best intentions, but sometimes this help can enable gambling.

Enabling behaviours include:

  •  Bailing the gambler out of debt
  •  Lending the gambler money
  •  Covering for lost time
  •  Denying the extent of the problem.
  •  Prioritising the gamblers needs before your own

Begin to regain control by setting boundaries and sticking to these boundaries. Be clear about what you are willing to do and what you are not. For example, you will give them some food but will not provide any financial support. Be consistent that you care and that you will support healthy behaviours. It is essential to protect your own emotional and mental health. Self-care is critical for building resilience toward the stressors associated with having someone in your life experiencing gambling harms. Call us for a chat, we can also help you regain control and set realistic boundaries and keep them.

 Professional Services:

  • Call the SA Intensive Gambling Help Service (SAIGHS) 8232 3333 for confidential and professional support through an evidence-based program led by trained psychologists. 

In partnership with Community Access and Services SA, our team conducted an interactive workshop about online gaming at Youth Camp 2021. Students have developed resources on pros and cons of playing online games, with the support of our team on tips to stay safe. The poster produced by participants is available for download here.