Angie Soumilas, photo: Paul Jeffers
Inside gambling took five minutes out of Youthline counsellor Angie Soumilas's busy day to talk to her about the job she loves – helping young people with gambling problems get their lives back.
What does your job involve?
I provide telephone and online support, counselling and referral for people with gambling problems, as well as for people who are affected by someone else's gambling.
How does a Youthline call unfold?
I begin by asking what the person is hoping to get out of the call. I find out whether they're phoning because they want to, or if a parent or friend suggested it. Young people can feel forced into getting help. We then chat about the types of gambling they engage in, how long it's been going on, and if it's affecting their daily life. Are they having difficulty keeping up with schoolwork? Are they missing out on classes? Are they socially withdrawn from friends?
When parents call they're sometimes confused by social media and all the apps available now. I explain these to them and get an understanding of the issue their son or daughter may be experiencing. We talk about the warning signs and how they can approach the issue with the young person.
What are some of the main concerns young people call up about?
'Is what I'm doing normal?' is a question that often arises. Young people can perceive gambling apps on Facebook and their phones as quite normal, without being aware of the risks involved.
They also call up about the effect gambling has on their mood, including depression and anxiety.
Sometimes children call about a parent's gambling – usually with concerns about money.
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What are some of the ways you help callers?
Because it's not face to face, you definitely want to know why they're calling and what they want to get out of it. It's important to give them hope and let them know help is out there.
If they want to see a counsellor face to face, I make a referral and they are then contacted by the service about an appointment.
I might give them some self-help techniques, so they have something positive to take away. With gambling it's often developing awareness of the risks, and distraction techniques. It might be going for a walk, limiting phone use, calling a friend or getting out of the house. Something that suits them and that they find helpful.
What do you think puts young people most at risk of problem gambling?
Social media and apps – young people are always on their phones. Also parents who gamble and may normalise the behaviour. Peer pressure as well. Young people tend to want to fit in with their peer groups, so at times they may gamble to feel socially accepted.
If you could change the gambling environment, what would you do?
I'd put an end to the gambling industry, because so many people get affected. Which, sadly, will never happen. But definitely more education. Some people gamble for recreation, but they might know someone who continues to gamble and it becomes problematic. There needs to be more awareness of the warning signs, the effects on wellbeing, including the wellbeing of others, and what support is available.
Call Gambler's Help Youthline on 1800 262 376 for advice and support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's anonymous, confidential and free.
Or if you would like to chat online with a counsellor, visit Gambling Help Online. This service is also available 24/7.
For more information, visit Youthline.
You can also read more in Inside gambling about how we recently promoted Youthline in our very first youth campaign.