Checking in to prevent harm during GambleAware Week

For Paul*, gambling began as a pleasurable activity that he used to escape work-place bullying. A single father living in the city, Paul successfully raised his son after separating from his wife who experienced addiction. He’s had a long and successful career in finance.

“I’m someone who always did the right thing. In the workplace, I tend to go above and beyond what I’ve been asked to do and try to assist everyone,” said Paul.

“I experienced bullying in the workplace a few years ago. It really affected me and it was something I’d never come across before.”

Paul began to dread going to work and started to feel very anxious and depressed. He occasionally had suicidal thoughts. His mates were worried about him, so they took him out for a drink and a gamble. Paul’s mates went home while he stayed out on the pokies.

“It was fun, it felt good, so I started to do that every day after work. After a time, I began finding myself with substantial debt, and couldn’t really believe it. I’d always been good with money in the past and previously had no interest in gambling it away.”

People often don’t know they have an issue with gambling until it begins to cause harm to their finances, health, relationships, employment and social and psychological wellbeing. GambleAware Week (19-25 October 2020) exists to increase awareness of the ways to prevent and overcome the harms associated with problem gambling in the NSW community. This year’s theme is ‘checking in’ on the gambling behaviours of friends and family, as well as your own behaviour.  

With mounting financial concerns, Paul’s depression and anxiety worsened, and his GP referred him to a Psychologist. However, he was too ashamed to mention his gambling during his sessions, so it went untreated. 

Paul’s son was worried about him. He knew this but was too embarrassed to tell his son what was going on. Other than his son, Paul had no family support.

In order to pay his debts Paul took an early retirement and then found most of his superannuation was being gambled away. A year later, Paul called the Gambling Helpline and was referred to BaptistCare Gambling Help.

BaptistCare’s Gambling Help program provides free counselling and treatment for problem gamblers and their families who are experiencing social, financial and emotional difficulties.

“Through counselling Paul was able to gain insight into his gambling and to understand that it was not a way to make money, or to resolve his anxiety and depression as he had initially thought,” said Rhonda, BaptistCare Gambling Help Counsellor. 

“Like many people we see, Paul falsely believed that he could ‘win’ playing his favourite machine with maximum bet and maximum lines.”

“To overcome his gambling, Paul continued to attend gambling counselling, implemented Self Exclusions at his local venues, worked with our Financial Counsellor to make his money safe, and applied the strategies he learnt to take control of his gambling urges,” said Rhonda.

Paul’s anxiety and depression began to lift, and he returned to the psychologist for additional assistance. He is now employed and consolidating his recovery, as well as prioritising building a strong relationship with his son. Paul continues to check in with our service once a month to ensure he stays out of harm’s way.

GambleAware Week is an opportunity to increase understanding of risky gambling behaviour, encourage people to recognise when their gambling may place them at risk of harm, provide information on practical ways to keep gambling under control and how to get help if they need it.

BaptistCare’s Gambling Help program encourages healthy choices and finding a way out of problem gambling so people can reconnect with their lives and loved ones.

Funding for this program and the GambleAware initiative is provided by the NSW Government through the Responsible Gambling Fund.

If you or someone you love is experiencing the social, financial and emotional difficulties caused by problem gambling, more details are available here.

Telehealth appointments are now available for our Bondi Junction and East Sydney locations. You can also reach out to NSW Gambling Help 24/7 on 1800 858 858 or refer to gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au for assistance.

*Name has been changed