There’s no doubt about it, gambling is a big issue for Australians. Data from the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission reveals that up to 170,000 Australian adults struggle with issues related to gambling addiction.
Furthermore, Australians are some of the heaviest gamblers in the world and lose approximately $24.9 billion a year to gambling.
Not only can gambling be detrimental to people’s financial well-being, but it can also wreak havoc on their mental health.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
A gambling addiction is described as an uncontrollable urge to gamble. The urge is so strong that it may take a toll on one’s life (affecting their finances, relationships, mental health, etc.).
Gambling can be addictive because of the effect it has on the brain’s reward system. It stimulates the reward system in a similar way to drugs and alcohol. It’s also considered one of the most common impulse control disorders in the world.
Someone who has a genetic predisposition to addiction may be more prone to develop a bad gambling habit.
Other factors can play a role as well, including a desperation for money or an obsession with the thrill that one gets from placing bets and winning money. The intoxicating atmosphere of a typical casino can also contribute.
Gambling, Mental Health, and Suicide Risk
Every year, roughly 400 Australians commit suicide as a result of their gambling problems. That works out to nearly 1 person taking their own life per day because of gambling addiction
Why is gambling so closely tied to poor mental health and suicide risk? Here are a few potential reasons:
Those who struggle with other mental health challenges are more likely to deal with addiction (including gambling addiction). Some of the most well-known conditions that often exist alongside addiction include:
- Personality disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
People with mental health challenges like this are already more prone to suicidal ideation compared to those without mental health conditions. These issues, combined with a gambling addiction, can naturally increase one’s suicide risk.
Gambling addiction often impacts relationships between people and their family members, romantic partners, or friends.
When these relationships get worse, the addict may also begin to experience worse mental health. This includes an increased risk of suicide. After all, if someone feels that they no longer have relationships with those who were once close to them, they might feel that their life is not worth living at all.
Work and Financial Problems
It’s not surprising that gambling addiction can cause financial problems. Regular and/or frequent gambling can easily drain one’s bank account or cause them to rack up credit card debt.
It’s worth noting, too, that a person’s gambling addiction may also begin to impact their work performance if it goes on for too long. They may even lose their job altogether, which will further exacerbate their financial problems and make it harder for them to dig themselves out of the hole.
Whether one loses their job or not, the financial struggles they face because of their gambling addiction may still increase their risk of suicide. In fact, those who have gone through severe financial strain may face a 20-fold higher risk of suicide attempts compared to those who have not encountered financial hardship.
Signs Someone Is at Risk of Suicide
It doesn’t matter if a person is struggling with a gambling addiction, an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or any other type of mental health struggle. If their challenges go on for too long, they may begin to experience suicidal ideations.
Here are some well-known signs that may indicate a person is at risk of suicide:
Some of the first warning signs of suicide risk have to do with the way a person talks.
Someone might talk directly about killing themselves. However, their speech may also indicate risk in other, less obvious ways. They might talk about feeling hopeless, feeling that they have no reason to live, or feeling that they’re a burden to others.
In addition to changes in the way they talk and the subjects they talk about, people who are at risk of suicide may also experience changes in their mood.
They might be more prone to bouts of anxiety or depression for example. They may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, or they may struggle with mood swings.
Finally, behaviour changes are common in those experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges as well.
Some particularly problematic behaviours include an increase in drug or alcohol use and an increase in problematic behaviours — including gambling. A person with a gambling addiction may also isolate themselves from friends or family so they can gamble uninterrupted or without shame.
Some people may also be caught looking online for ways to end their lives. They may also start to contact people to say goodbye or begin giving away their prized possessions.
How to Overcome Gambling Addiction
If a person’s gambling addiction is so severe that it is causing them to contemplate ending their own life, help is available. The following are some steps that may help them to overcome their addiction:
- Joining a support group
- Separating themselves from environments associated with gambling (i.e., casinos)
- Taking note of when they feel “cravings” for gambling
- Looking for alternatives to satisfy the craving (such as exercise, volunteer work, meditation, etc.)
Working with a professional who specialises in gambling addiction is also key. They can help the addict get to the bottom of why they feel compelled to gamble. They’ll also work with them to identify new, healthier coping mechanisms to deal with triggers.
Final Thoughts on Suicide Awareness in Australia
If someone you love is struggling with a gambling addiction or experiencing other mental health struggles, they need to get help as soon as possible. With the right training, you can be a catalyst for change and help them help themselves.
Suicide Programs run a range of courses that can teach you how to have calm conversations that can save lives. Claim your free suicide prevention course today, or contact us to learn about your options for suicide intervention training in Australia.