Shane Lucas, photo: Paul Jeffers
In the time of COVID-19, the theme of this year’s Gambling Harm Awareness Week (GHAW) had particular resonance for the Victorian community.
To talk, to share, to support – it’s what we’ve all needed to do with and for each other to address social isolation, mental and physical health concerns, and the stress associated with lockdown.
To talk, to share, to support – it’s what we’ve all needed to do with and for each other.
These have been particularly testing times for people already struggling with both their mental health and the effects of gambling harm. One GHAW event, ’The busy intersection where mental health and gambling harm meet’, looked specifically at this issue.
Mental health and gambling harm
Dr Rebecca Hope, a consultant psychiatrist for Gambling Minds and the Alfred emergency department, shared her insights into the intense pressures that COVID-19 has exerted on clients with depression and anxiety, as well as those presenting for the first time with bipolar disorder and/or psychosis. Engaged and responsive services, treatment and support can provide a lifeline as clients reconnect, learn coping strategies and build resilience. Dr Hope has provided us with her reflections in this issue of Inside gambling also.
Engaged and responsive services, treatment and support can provide a lifeline.
Highlights of a talk given by journalist Drew Rooke at the GHAW event ‘Chapter and verse: telling the stories of gambling harm’ also feature in this issue. Drew interviewed people who gamble, counsellors who provide treatment and support, and industry representatives to write his book One last spin: the power and peril of the pokies, and shared some of the hard-won wisdom of patrons he met in Sydney venues.
When gaming venues have re-opened interstate and overseas, there has been a surge in gambling compared to the same period in 2019. Victorian gaming venues have been able to reopen with significant COVID-19-related restrictions since 9 November. We know there will be some people with pent-up urges to gamble and these Victorians are at an increased risk of gambling harm.
Victorians experiencing unemployment, increased stress and financial worries are also more vulnerable to gambling harm if they turn to gambling as a way to cope. With many gaming venues located in lower socio-economic areas, some communities are less equipped to deal with these stressors and will depend on venue support workers and staff more than ever.
Harm prevention messages
The Foundation is prioritising gambling harm prevention messages and has provided information and resources to venues about the importance of complying with responsible service of gaming obligations and the new COVIDSafe requirements.
We know there will be some people with pent-up urges to gamble.
Staff can look out for patrons who may be at risk of gambling harm by getting to know or reconnecting with them. Workers who interact regularly with patrons on the gaming floor are well placed to see signs of gambling harm and inform the responsible gambling officer of any concerns. This person can then provide advice on available support.
It has been a year unlike any other in living memory. At the Foundation, we have been so impressed by the commitment shown by our Gambler’s Help and prevention partners as they continue to support Victorians at risk of gambling harm.
We have stayed apart but we have also stayed together, and we thank you for your hard work in hard times.