We regularly feature items not focused on gambling. These include other ‘addictions’ and harms arising from products, ‘mental health’, and human rights based campaigns against inequality, injustice and exploitation. Here’s why.
Many suffering from gambling harms may also be suffering from one or more other dependence syndromes, especially alcohol.
We all suffer. Whatever form our sufferings take we can all support each other.
The journey through revovery, or whatever term is preferred is similarly difficult for everybody.
Joining with friends in, for instant, alcohol or other hard drugs support groups enables us to learn and support each other.
We all have the same aim to improve services for NHS addiction recovery, and especially work to break down the odious institutional distinction between ‘mental health and addiction.’ It may be convenient but it is naive at best not to place at the heart of mental health the most severe, pervasive and ignored condition known as ‘addiction’
There never was a golden period for NHS and state funded addiction services but at one time things were showing signs of improvement. Then in 2010 the government stopped funding local services and left them to local and regional councils while simultaneaously reducing finance to those councils across the board.
Similarly, ‘mental health’ services have aways been the poor relative of the NHS, and today there is a crisis seen in huge waiting lists for the many millions of people in desperate need. If this is true of ‘mental health’ services, ‘addiction’ services can be seen as the disreputable relative. ‘Gambling services’ are largely invisible as the phrase ‘invisible addiction’ suggests.
Therefore, a joint effort at all levels, in our case the grassroots level, is vital to campaign for improvements.
There is a particular need for gambling harms activists to ally with third sector and lived experience groups which traditionally focus upon alcohol and other hard drugs. Similarly, working with the larger number of generic ‘mental health’ support, campaigning and advocacy groups is important.
There are groups such as aquarius which have ‘alcohol, drugs and gambling’ in their mission and publicity. In Scotland the RCA Trust similarly headlines joint services including gambling. Our own conversations with mental health, recovery and addiction organisations in Scotland suggest a great willingness to engage inclusion of gambling harms. (We leave aside in this post issues related to funding but for ourselves we work towards a landscape totally divorced from any funding from the gambling industry).
A Wider View
We are aware of work being done towards combined approaches to mental health teatment (including addiction). This is a very complex area. For instance it strongly emphasises the general move to see ‘health and social care’ as a unified whole, excellent in theory, a long way off in practice.
There are also growing moves towards unified understanding of addiction. While substance dependence does include a need for specific support, the idea develops that ‘addiction’ is a core state that can be addressed whatever the particular ‘addiction’. This is recognised in practice by third sector provision. It is also allied with understandings of health recovery which fully embrace ‘addiction’ as a health condition, rather than something else.
There are also new ways of conceiving ‘mental health’. One of these is to abolish the term ‘mental health’ itself both because it is, like it or not, stigmatising, and also because it ignores the realty that our woes are emotional, not ‘mental’. The implication that one you can ‘think your way out of” suffering isn’t totally without merit, but it can imply that your pain is ‘all in your head’ (or your brain, or your pond of brain chemicals)
The word psyche is from ancient Greece and means ‘soul’. It’s not religious or ‘spiritual’. More like soul music, of which the blues is a big strain, the expression of human heights and sorrows, joys and despairs. It has been stolen by ‘Psychology’ and ‘Psychiatry’, enterprises like many others contributing to the dehumanisation of the soul, turning individuals into quantifiable fragments. We don’t ignore some of the helpful and often vital supports the experts can provide. But they don’t touch the soul. We do that, or we can do that, when we touch each other’s soul. The soul isn’t some spooky spirit that goes to heaven or hell when we die or gets reinacranted as a fruit bat. It’s blood, guts, thunder, ecstasy, despair.
If we are going through addiction we’re going through just one of many troubles that flesh is heir to. It is anguish. For many still today, religion continues to address this sort of suffering rather than brain chemicals, though, of course, a religious support by no means excludes psychological therapies and medications. For many of us who lack a religious life, soul help is from another’s soul. Listening, sharing, not judging, breaking bread together (‘companion’ means breaking bread together: we are saved by a sou; companion).
Whatever our anguish, addiction, loss, bereavement, deep depression or despair, we share our sorrows and that’s as good a reason as any not to see gambling pain as separate from all other human pain. The word ‘compassion’ means ‘to share suffering’. (‘Passion’ originally means suffering). To be compassionate is to deeply share another’s suffering.
The word addiction, by the way, comes from the Roman contract by which a slave became addicted to a master, body and soul.
Enslavement continues literally in the world today. But all of us may find our souls enslaved to any of many things.