People describe the changes that they would like to see made to gambling treatment and support services. People want the accessibility, availability and quality of gambling treatment increased.
Overall, people want to see a suitably financed treatment system within the National Health Service (NHS). This should ensure that people in all areas can access help for gambling difficulties. This includes an increase in the number of regional specialist clinics and residential facilities and more online and telephone support. It also means GPs and other health and social services should know how they should address gambling difficulties. There should be more treatment options to meet the needs of different people and groups.
Other mental health and addictions are catered for in the NHS. People did not see why gambling should be different. For gambling, treatment is often delivered by organisations outside of the NHS, with their funding coming to them from gambling companies.
Gambling treatment on the NHS
People say there is a need for a more comprehensive National Health Service (NHS) based system of treatment for people experiencing gambling difficulties. This needs to include an expansion of the limited specialist gambling treatment services that are available within the NHS.
There’s very limited support available currently. There’s two gambling specific rehab clinics in the entire country at the moment and one’s just opened up in Southampton as well. But the other two are very far up north, which for my locality, that’s just not an option. I think better training for NHS professionals to be able to diagnose compulsive gambling or problem gambling as an illness. It is an illness. It’s recognized by Public Health England as an illness, so it should be treated in such a way.
Everything so far that I’ve experienced, it’s all outside organisations, charitable organisations that have set up because they know the harm that comes from the addiction. They know about it, so they’ve set it up off their own back to be able to offer that support and offer that avenue of support for compulsive gamblers. It shouldn’t be that. It should be the government act and they put these actual proper NHS blocks or help and support in place. Not to say that people shouldn’t attend Gamblers Anonymous because it’s an outside organization because a compulsive gambler I feel should attend as much as they possibly can to access the support wherever possible. But I think more needs to be put in place from a medical point of view to support the addiction. It’s recognised as an illness by Public Health England. Why is it not treated in such a way?
At the same time, general health and social services need to be geared up to detect, manage and refer cases of people experiencing gambling difficulties. There needs to be more awareness about gambling addiction among GPs, and other primary healthcare staff. There needs to be more knowledge of gambling difficulties within the other services that people may use. People who have contact with mental health services, emergency services or other addiction services, say they feel unable to talk about gambling and have not been asked about gambling.
I feel like if GPs have the Gamblers Anonymous meetings, leaflets, or something along them lines, the gambling clinics and stuff like that, then it means that– Because if you’re going to go for help, and then you get disregarded, it means you’re having to look for help two or three times. You should just be able to come for help once, get the information you need, and then decide where you want to go from there.
Make it’s something that’s going to be … because I felt like it was a bit of an interrogation when I had my chat [with an organisation] and I’m sure they wanted to help, but it didn’t feel…probably because people don’t understand what I was going through. I think if you’ve got someone there who understands what you’re going through, it makes it a lot more easy and probably more effective conversation.
Many people have found the treatment provided by the National Gambling Treatment Services to be helpful. However, some people are concerned about the quality and independence of these services. This is because they are funded by gambling companies and operate outside of the NHS. They want an overhaul of gambling treatment.
People are reaching crisis point before they’re accessing treatment and then the treatment they’re getting is awful… I always say it’s better to have no treatment than bad treatment because I think bad treatment, which some people are going through the likes of [organisation] is going to make people worse and make people suicidal and these people are really vulnerable already and they’re getting shit treatment. So for me, top to bottom the system’s broken… but get it right at the top from government level, it filters down to the regulations and the regulator, have better prevention through awareness, education, and then improved treatment system.
But there was some counselling offered through the [organisation] up in the Northeast. It’s a company called [organisation]. I think in the first couple of sessions, I got the impression they were happy for me just try and reduce my gambling and I just didn’t get that.
Often, when people were experiencing gambling difficulties, they found themselves unsure of where to go for help. People say that there needs to be more advertising and promotion of the different support and treatment services that are available.
They say that raising awareness of treatment and support groups would help people to feel more comfortable using them.
It should be something that is more well-known because you’ve obviously you’ve got AA and things like that for people that have got other addictions, but GA, even I did it before when I thought I’m going to walk in that room there’s just going to be little old blokes sitting there… but it’s not like that at all. It’s really not… If you go in the doctors, you’ll always see signs for drug treatment and alcohol addiction, but you never see one for gambling problems. I think for it to be more known about and more easily accessible because you don’t know it’s there unless you Google it.
People also say that support services should be made easier to access.
I didn’t really know where to go. So, I think, and this is probably a problem for a lot of gamblers out there at the moment, and this is why we need to make more awareness because I didn’t really know what to do or where to go. I had to do a lot of the work myself and at that point I’d stopped gambling, but I was still very raw emotionally. I was still feeling very down, still very anxious. So, it took a lot out of me to go and then see the doctor and stuff. Maybe some people wouldn’t have the strength to do that. I don’t know. So, it’s difficult, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to get help for.
There should be more promotion of the free support services available, because people often felt that they were left paying for their treatment.
They could make it more easily available to get sort of the counselling support. You know, I pay for the counselling, but I know that there is like ways you can get free things. But if that was more advertised and more readily available, then that would be a good thing.
I wanted to destroy something, but I couldn’t destroy the van. I was ringing up, I googled gambling rehab places and nothing come up. There was this place in [town] called [name], something like that. It said they were open, and I must have rang them over 20 times, because I was so desperate that I would have literally walked into one of these rehab places where you’re in there 24/7. I would literally have gone there for as long as it needed. I rang up another place, I never heard anything off them. I rang this other place, they said, “Yes, we do inpatient stuff.” And she went, “But for two weeks.” What did she say? £3,000, and £6,000. I was like, “Oh God”, bear in mind I’m ringing about a gambling addiction, I have zero money. It was like, well your best bet is Gamblers Anonymous.
More treatment options
People say there needs to be more treatment service options to address the needs of specific groups, such as women.
I get frustrated, but I know that the majority of people that come for support are males, but they will like, say 75% of the people that come forward are males and then nothing is said about the 25% that are women. You’re just making women feel like they have no place and I just always feel like we’re pushed off the table. There’s targeted marketing of gambling products to women, so why is there not targeted marketing for women?… It’s all of these things where they’re not expecting to see women in that crowd, so they have no voice in this. It’s majority male. It’s still focused on that. The GambleAware campaign, they’ve done one this year where it was for women but when you click on the link it says it’s a gender-neutral information and nothing has changed. Little offshoots are still coming through now for women. We’ll wait and see.
Some people say the only thing they need therapy for is to stop gambling. For others, a course of cognitive behavioural sessions to deal with gambling alone is not enough. They need more holistic counselling. This includes counselling to deal with the significant mental health and life consequences of gambling. As well as addressing underlying issues that contribute to people’s gambling. And developing new ways of coping.
Often, people are given a certain number of counselling sessions or type of treatment, but they feel that this is not enough. There is a need for continued support once the treatment has ended.