Our aim is to raise awareness about gambling harms. We are just two people so obviously we can only make a small contribution to much work going on elsewhere. All our energies and time over the past year have been in producing the film One Last Spin. This will be distributed across Scotland and beyond. It will be used in community events for the general public, at recovery community events, in health promotion.
As a secondary aim we hope it may be useful for training and awareness raising for particular workers including trade union officials, Links workers, frontline community workers, doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, politicians and so on.
Our aim is to make a small contribution to raising awareness about gambling harms.
Awareness raising is needed for many specific groups such as health workers, teachers, politicians, and al those concerned with enhancing well-being and flourishing for individuals. We provide some links, occasionally posts, retweet items from these specialist groups.
But our main audience is the ordinary person living in their community. This includes people who have suffered or are suffering from gambling harms. The larger ‘wider community’ is where we want to reach, to raise awareness, conversation and thinking around gambling. We believe that gambling harms represent a serious, largely hidden, ‘social issue’. In the same way that the high rate of harms caused by alcohol and other hard drugs is a social issue, and one need not be a drugs user or be close to someone who is to be very concerned, so you can be concerned about gambling harms without having personally suffered or being close to someone who has.
Partnering with Recovery Movements
There are common themes that have to be challenged by recovery movements. This work can be seen as inseparable from their work to support and offer hope. Some of these themes are:
Inadequate treatment pathways
Poor material resourcing
Inconsistent, often arbitrary, knowledge bases in professionals
Much (contradictory) theory, policy, abstract debate. Little use.
Embedded failure to recognise centrality of user-led support
Reducing a very complex field to bullet points like this is silly in one way (though bullet point thinking is far from rare, of course). Hopefully, though, it hints at the possibility that rather than seeing this ‘thing’ such as ‘gambling addiction’ or ‘mental disorder’ or any other derogatory phrase loaded with negative stereotypes, we could in practice work together no matter what the issues we face.
If ‘bullet point thinking’ represents a too simple (and frequently dehumanising) approach, ‘vision’ or blue sky thinking may be deemed as unrealistic pipdreaming. If this is so, then the vision of ‘health’ is unrealistic. Health means ‘whole’. (for some, it’s related to ‘holy’), perfect well-being, flourishing. None of us are healthy on this scale. Or maybe just feeling OK with life and not having to deal with physical illness is more realistic. It’s more than possible too to suffer physically and/or ‘mentally’ and still feel OK with life. (This last point is important although perhaps not everybody will immediately agree).
But whoever we are, we all want to feel OK with life. While each individual is different, and some issues need specialist support, rather than concentrate only on fixing what’s wrong, there is a greater need to focus on things which do may life OK, so any negatives are outweighed by positives, or the negatives are better handled. ‘Recovery’ in this sense is far more than asking some expert for a ‘cure’. In this sense, ‘recovery’ may include some expert help but far more important than a prescription pad are the things that have always made life OK. These include our positive relationships with others, creativity, meaning and purpose. A recovery community, like any community, thrives on growing social connections, mutual care, creativity (from gardening to film making), sharing a common meaning and so on. While this sort of stuff is at the vague ‘blue sky’ level, in practice it is the sort of stuff that we see in every thriving ‘recovery’ community. In any community, recovering or not.
In practice, as far as our own limited insights and resources allow, we believe that there’s a case not to see ‘gambling harms; as an isolated ‘thing’, but just one of the many misfortunes we face or may face. ‘Addiction’ is no different than bereavement or cancer in this respect, and totally aside from support focused on a particular issue facing a particular individual in their unique personal biography, communal support, one for all and all for one, is a vital common unifier of all our mutual needs and potentials.
In any case, when it comes to that area designated ‘addiction’, we should face the fact that a heavy gambler may also be a heavy drinker (or use other hard drugs). This isn’t often recognised or admitted. Also, it should be obvious that what is refereed to as ‘mental health’ is badly impacted by an ‘addiction’. Depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation may be inseparable from this ‘addiction’.
It would be good to hope that one day the customary thinking about ‘addiction’ changes so that it’s not treated as less worthy of attention than ‘respectable’ issues related to ‘mental health’. It would be good to see, for instance the theme of a ‘mental health arts festival’ to be around those of us labelled as addicts (currently thereby on a separate planet).
That’s it. As our little thread unwinds, the film reaches communities and unique individuals, for more than practical purposes we look to be part of the movements, named ‘recovery’ or not, in which we all help each other a little bit to make life feel OK.