Affected by Someone Else’s Gambling
As well as the harms an individual may suffer from their own gambling, on average six other people close to them will suffer harms.
This will most often include family members including children. Issues arising from debt are common. Stresses and strains of all kinds can become severe. Arguments and even sometimes domestic abuse may arise. It’s likely that a sense of shame may accompany distress. Also common is a feeling of isolation annd not knowing where to turn.
If a loved one is gambling in such a way as to cause harm to others perhaps an initial response is anger and blame. We internalise social attitudes which see people with addictions or compulsive behaviours as ‘bad’ or weak. Our emotions may prevent our understanding that a person is suffering from something which needs its own support, something which is an illness.
We are all unique as individuals and in our life situations. There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions. But there is good support available for affected others which draws on years of experience. We signpost some of this below. The links are included in our main Support section but it’s useful to say a little more about them here.
It can be helpful to see that as well as the harm endured by an individual gambler, many others are affected too.
Sometimes the harms falling upon affected others are as bad as, or even worse, as those suffered by the gambler.
Knowing that you are far from alone may lighten a sense of isolation.
A lot of people in Glasgow suffer from gambling harms. Some of these are severe but there are also many who suffer slightly less harms but those which still have a significant negative impact on wellbeing.
Children and young people can be particularly hurt by the behaviour of adults close to them. Still gowing and learning, they have not developed emotional coping skills and are vulnerable to hurts.
Arguments, bitter silences and withdrawal by preoccupied carers can lead to isolation, fear and misery in a child or young person. Very difficult as it can be, no matter what carers and guardians are going through themselves it is important to try and protect the young person as much as possible.
Ideally the person who is gambling will accept that they have an issue and seek available support. Again ideally this will include support from others who accept that something good is being done. The negative atmosphere can begin to lift. In practice, the affected others may need their own support as the family moves towards recovery.
Children and young people can also suffer from gambling hurt directly by themselves engaging in gambling behaviours and we have a separate section on this.
A great organisation to visit is GamFam
GamFam is a charity which was set up by affected others who had no place to turn to when they found themselves affected by someone else’s gambling. Their GRASP PROGRAMME for families is based on lived experience. There is a lot to read on he site but take it bit by bit. It’s designed to support people during the stages of recovery which progress over time. Since starting the organisation which was focused on supporting affected others, GamFam now includes support for the gamber themselves. So for those who can work together with the gambler, the site brings everything together.
There is a Support Leaflet for families and affected others from GamCare. If you contact GamCare you will be listened to and offered directions to the support you need.
If you visit the Quick Links to Support page you’ll find lots of links to places which can help families and affected others. There’s support and advice relating to debt, emotional distress, relationship counselling, support for carers, domestic abuse and bereavement support. Most people will not need support for the more devastating issues that can arise but sadly too many people will. Also included is support for families affected by alcohol and drugs issues; this is because unfortunately there is often both substance and gambling harms occur together in quite a large number of people.
A lot of issues may arise from gambling harms. For instance, debt, emotional distress, relationship difficulties, unemployment, poor school and work performance, and even crime. The page on Gambling Harms says a little more about this. It also brings attention to the possible legacies of gambling behaviour which continue after recovery is started. These may include repaying big debts, healing relationships, recovering from mental and emotional distress and more. Because each person and situation is different, the length and intensity of these legacies will vary. The point is that we have to remember that recovery – for the gambler and affected others – is not achieved only with the end of gambling but includes overcoming some other life difficulties too. That’s why it is good to know that for every kind of difficulty support is available.
It is well worth knowing that Citizens Advice staff and frontline volunteers are being trained to help with gambling difficulties. They can help point people to good support as well as providing support themselves for issues such as debt.