When Marnie* went to her doctor it was to get something to help her sleep. The GP dug deeper. What was stopping her from sleeping?
Marnie was anxious about her daughter Cassie and finances.
Cassie's school had been in touch about her patchy attendance and not getting work in on time. Cassie was angry and uncommunicative.
The financial problems were from playing the pokies, which Marnie had done a lot since her mother died.
GPs are often the first port of call for people experiencing problems with gambling – usually with stress-related issues like depression, anxiety and insomnia.
With fewer than one in 10 people with gambling problems seeking formal help from gambling services, the role of doctors in early diagnosis and connecting people with the right help is critical
GPs are often the first port of call for people experiencing problems with gambling.
With this in mind, last year the foundation developed an introduction to Gambler's Help for GPs.
Marnie's doctor encouraged her to call the Gambler's Helpline.
The ripple effect of problem gambling
The Gambler's Helpline referred Marnie to free counselling near her home.
Marnie spoke to the counsellor about how the pokies were a crutch, helping her deal with the grief of losing her mum, but how they ultimately came between her and her kids.
The inter-generational impact of gambling harm was highlighted in a recent Australian Gambling Research Centre report which found children of people with gambling problems can experience high levels of stress. Research has also shown they're more than twice as likely to develop a problem of their own.
Children, partners, family members and friends make up the estimated 300 thousand Victorians who are significantly affected by someone else's gambling.
Relatively few, however, use the free support services available to them. In April this year the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation launched a family and friends campaign to let people know how to get help.
Bringing it home
Marnie's counsellor helped her work out a plan to reduce her gambling and regain control of her life. This included addressing how her gambling was affecting her children.
The counsellor saw Marnie's family's recovery as central to the process. Since 2009, Gambler's Help and the Bouverie Centre have been developing ways to work with the whole family.
'If families have access to the resources they need, gambling harm can be significantly reduced and prevented from being passed down to future generations,' says Bouverie Centre Director Jeffrey Young.
Children, partners, family members and friends make up an estimated 300 thousand Victorians who are significantly affected by someone else's gambling.
Marnie got up the courage to talk to Cassie. Cassie was angry and confused about being left to look after her younger brother and sister when Marnie went out. She felt helpless when there wasn't enough food or money in the house. Marnie explained what had been happening and why she hadn't been around as much as she should have been.
Once Marnie began to make some changes at home, Cassie joined her at a counselling session. The counsellor helped Marnie recognise Cassie's distress and draw out the core of her concerns so they could focus on addressing them. Opening up was a huge relief for both of them.
If you are experiencing problems with gambling, or someone close to you has a problem, call Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858. Find out more about getting help.
*Marnie's experience is based on a number of real-life stories as told by Gambler's Help counsellors.