Here we list with a few notes support resources in Scotland and beyond. If you know of any sources of support we don’t mention here do let us know. At the bottom of the page is a link to a section which explores self-help. For some such self-help resources may be sufficient, but for most they will complement working with a support service. There is never any ‘one size fits all’ for any mental health conditions but it is useful to explore what’s available.
If you are suffering from gambling related harm that’s not who you are: it’s a part of who you are with all your unique circumstances and identity. But the big first step is to find a listening ear. This could be opening up to family or a trusted friend. Our greatest support often comes from people closest to us. Scary as it may seem, opening up about your difficulties is by far the most important first step to overcoming them, and brings a lightening of your burdens.
Many of the support services listed here have a long track record of helping people. Some, such as Gamblers Anonymous and SMART Recovery are voluntary groups run by people who themselves have benn and maybe still are going through the mill.
Gambling Watch Scotland is not able to offer support. However, we hope that sections of the website will help. Also, we’ll be exploring how many people in overcoming gambling damage are willing to talk one-to-one by text or telephone.
Services continue throught the Covid-19 lockdowns via telephone and texts. Where relevant, group meetings are conducted online with Zoom.
The UK charity offers support online and by telephone. It also has ‘group chats’ by text and a Forum. Their website also provides self-help advice which includes links to self-exclusion from gambling sites, software to block gambling, and financial and debt advice. There are also useful guides to managing mental and emotional distress.
In Scotland, GamCare provides individual support to citizens in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Elsewhere in Scotland the RCA Trust provide individual support. In any case, the GamCare website is a useful resource for anybody suffering from gambling harms.
This link gives a list of support services, including to help especially for children, debt, psychological wellbeing and issues sadly often associated with gambling harms such as abuse and alcohol-related harms.
It’s important to get what help you can, and everything listed at this site is useful. However, we should point out something that will be discussed on our website. GamCare and BeGambleAware are funded by voluntary donations from industry. Not everybody is happy with this, and we’ll examine why this is so and what alternatives to funding support by industry donations may be. We recommend that for now if you need support or help, take a look at anything that’s available.
Gambling Harms: Advice and Support
On the website we’ll be looking at the great community-based work around gambling from COPE SCOTLAND which is based in Drumchapel, Glasgow. Until then we bring you a booklet they produced which contains all the contact details for support we mention here and more besides! COPE’s website is also a great resource for helping us with our mental and emotional health. Check it out!
You can download a pdf version by clicking the button.
The GamFam Recovery and Support Programme (GRA5P) offers help and support to families affected by gambling. The website is packed with useful advice and links such as to a complete set of ways to self-exclude or use block software. Good advice for parents keeping an eye on children at different ages through to young adulthoods, how to detect possible problems and how to talk about them.
Groups in the programme are hosted by a trained Facilitator and usually have between 6 to 10 members. Groups run on Zoom with the option of further 1 to 1 peer support if required. There is also the opportunity to speak with a trained counsellor should the member need additional support beyond the main group.
The Gordon Moody Association
The Gordon Moody Association has 50 years of experience in helping people with gambling difficulties. Visit their website for contacts and advice. As well as providing online support and general help, they specialise in helping with the most serious problems and offer residential treatment, including separate support tailored especially for women. They also help with accommodation. See all their services here.
They run live support sessions, groups and have a free app you can download to help support yourself. Check out their therapy site which contains self-help advice and resources, and details of a group for families and friends affected by gambling harms.
Young People’s Support Service
A service dedicated to under-18s providing a range of options as suited to the individual. The service works collaboratively with parents and other support services wherever possible.
Check out the details here.
Big Deal is another website from GamCare aimed at young people. It provides information, activities and access points for immediate help. There’s also a section for parents and professionals Check it out here.
Many people have been helped by GA’s 12-steps approach. Others are less attracted to it. Women, for instance are wary of sitting in groups comprising mainly men. Others object to the emphasis on a ‘higher power’. What’s certain, however, is that for people starting out on recovery, being able to find people from all backgrounds with issues similar to themselves, being able to share and talk openly withought fear of judgment, and having a personal ‘sponsor’ who’s always on hand to contact if the going gets tough are all helpful. Martin, who we’ll hear a lot from on the site, found GA wasn’t for him in the long run but he says that attending some meetings early on, just lessening those dreadful feelings of isolation and shame was immensely valuable. Go here for the Scottish Gambler’s Anonymous web page contact details and directions to English, Welsh and Ulster support. You can phone for an immediate talk with a recovering compulsive gambler 24/7, or have a text chat.
Like Gamblers Anonymous, SMART hold group meetings – including for freinds and families meetings. Unlike GA, SMART does not see ‘addiction’ as a disease but as something learned which can be unlearned.
Whereas most people have heard of 12-steps groups, most may be unaware of this alternative approach which is centred on managing thoughts and emotions through a Cognitive Behavioural lens. All meetings are free to attend, and led by trained facilitators.
SMART shares with GA all the benefits of being able to talk openly – maybe for the first time – and without fear of negative judgment, and to learn that one has been suffering is not caused by moral weakness or character deficiency but is a mental health condition like any other that can affect anybody.
Visit the website for contact details and more details of the SMART approach.
Sadly, women and children are too frequently subject to abuse. It’s not true that all men with severe gambling problems are abusers but a signicant number are.
Refuge will give you immediate practical advice and support.
Other Sources of Support
NHS Scotland has a page about gambling which contains advice and good links which include one to Gam-Anon, a fellowship for spouses, parents, relatives and close friends who are affected by a person’s gambling difficulties. Another great site is GamStop which shows you how to block gambling sites and apps from your digital devices, and the site also contains a lot of valuable links to suppport sources.
Debt and Other Issues
Many of the problems arising from gambling are related to finance and debt. The National Debt Line and StepChange can help. Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert) has produced a good 40 pages guide to mental health and money which you can download, mentalhealthguidedebt-Oct-2020
The Vulnerability Registration Service says, “Consumers in vulnerable circumstances may be significantly less able to represent their own interests, and more likely to suffer harm than the average consumer. Vulnerability is characterised by a range of emotional and practical consequences, including a lack of perspective, poor decision-making, an inability to plan ahead and foresee problems, and changing attitudes towards risk-taking.” By registering with them, you can avoid having to repeat your circumstances again and again to various agencies. Check them out to see what the service can do for you.
For many people, the Citizens Advice Bureau is a great place to start. They’re very known for the help and support they’ve given to so many people on a range of issues over the years. From April 2020 they’ve been training frontline workers to recognise and support people with gambling harms. Their own advisers are trained too.
As well as being a major mental disorder, addiction almost always is accompanied by other health difficulties. Depression and anxiety are very common. The stress of debt, secrecy, shame, guilt, relationship fractures, work ssues, possibly criminal proceedings al take their toll on both mental health and physical health.
Despite it’s stigmatising nature, the words ‘addiction’ and ‘addict’ are still in common usage among the public, and health and social care workers. Whatever we call it, it is a devastatingly intense mental and emotional pain for a person who desperately wants to stop but can’t. In its wake it brings great stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. The same sadly is true for affected others. In a period of recovery, support for mental and emotional distress is very important. There are many places to find support. Some are local, such as COPE or any of the mental health charities and organisations. Support in Mind Scotland has an extensive list of links to what’s available in different areas. The NHS has a great directory for all the UK national organisations that support mental health. Check out too for links Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership and Clear Your Head. And never forget the Samaritans. Whatever you are going through they are there to listen 24/7. Having someone truly listen when you may be in despair is possibly the greatest form of support. Check out these links and the places they take you. Pick up the phone or write a message.
What is called addiction may itself be the consequence of pre-existing mental and emotional distress. People in pain sometimes do harmful things for just a little period of relief, then these things become deeply embedded habits. Others are more prone generally to risky behaviours, for instance people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have a significantly higher risk of running into serious harms from gambling. There is also a strong link between trauma in childhood, adverse childhood experiences, and later issues around what is called addiction. And although any mental health condition is no respecter of things like social class or wealth, people from backgrounds of social deprivation are at greater risk of serious harms from substance dependence and behavioural risks. In any case, for all involved, the experience of gambling damage is intensely painful and will lead to other forms of distress such as depression and anxiety. Very sadly, in states of great suffering and isolation, feeling trapped with nowhere to turn, some may turn to drugs or alcohol as an ‘escape’. And, of course, drugs or alcohol may encourage reckless gambling.
It is worth approaching your GP. They may not know much about gambling but can help begin untangle some of the difficulties you’re facing, suggest treatments for some of them. refer you to other services. Everybody is unique, and the levels of suffering vary. Remember, about a third of ‘addicts’ to anything recover without support. Younger people, for instance, may ‘mature out’, finding that a marriage and children replaces the old ways of thinking and being. Many others find one of the support organisations listed here enhance their wellbeing and the overcoming of compulsions and impulsions.
Support for Frontline Staff
Frontline health and social care staff are at risk of encountering mental distres sincluding addiction in themselves and colleagues. Perhaps self-stigma here is a particularly intense obstacle to seeking help. There is an excellent page here from the British Medical Association signposting support services and peer networks. An extremely thorough list covers all aspects of staff well being including legal and financial issues, and solid well established support especially for mental health issues and addciction.
Help at Work
Many employers are trained, and in the process of being trained, to understand gambling harms as an illness. The UNITE Union, for The Trades Union Council (TUC), has established a charter between employers and employees at Unite Gambling in the Workplace Charter
The Welsh TUC has produced an excellent guide to employee protection and support. See Wales TUC gambling toolkit.
Support from Those Who Know
We are totally committed to the need and value of Experts by Experience in developing mental health support. In the case of those who have been mentally and emotionally harmed by gambling we witness these experts’ involvement with local and national initiatives to shape policies. We also see so many great charities and other support organisations being set up by those who have intimate lived experience of what others are going through. On the website we look at some examples.
As a taster, visit Chatter Scotland, a new organisation fom Edinburgh. Their site states:
Chatter is designed to amplify the voice of people affected by gambling across Scotland and beyond and provide pathways for those who need us most. We are a group of people all with lived experience of disordered gambling. The support we provide is a hybrid of skills and experience with coaching at its core. We will use a consistent framework to provide stability and transparency – and our strengths to personalise our relationships with our clients
Chatter Scotland is an example from many grassroots places set up by Experts by Experience.