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Starting the conversation about gambling harm

Shane Lucas

Foundation CEO Shane Lucas

Welcome to Gambling Harm Awareness Week 2023.

Each year we take this opportunity to raise awareness of gambling harm within the Victorian community and encourage open discussion about how it affects individuals, families, and the community.

Talk. Share. Support. is our overarching theme with an emphasis this year on starting a conversation with someone who is or may be experiencing gambling harm. Conversations can break down the stigma and isolation of gambling harm and be the first step on the road to help seeking.

We know that people who gamble are not the only people who experience harm. Harm doesn’t discriminate and an ‘affected other’ might be a close family member of someone who gambles but could also be a friend, neighbour or colleague.

Conversations can break down the stigma and isolation of gambling harm …

It can be human nature to avoid what’s difficult, and shame around gambling harm can keep this sensitive topic hidden. And because we know that that discomfort can stall conversations, the Foundation has provided some tips to get the talk flowing and ready yourself to deeply listen.

To initiate a conversation, carve out time away from everyday distractions and find somewhere comfortable and private. Be patient. Demonstrating your care and concern for the wellbeing of your loved one is its own form of ‘communication’ and can make a powerful difference.

You can demonstrate that care by maintaining open and positive body language but what that means can vary for each person and relationship. While leaning in and maintaining eye contact can build trust and signal ‘I am listening’ to some, for others it might feel too confrontational. If you suspect your loved one might feel put on the spot, sitting side by side while going for a drive may provide the safety and privacy that elicits confidences.

It’s vital to listen without judging or interrupting.

Even if the person isn’t ready to talk, reassure them that you’re available to talk and listen if or when they’re ready, but also suggest they speak to other friends, family or professionals if they would prefer.

If they are ready to open up, be aware that you’re not starting the clock or setting the agenda and encourage them to speak freely. It’s vital to listen without judging or interrupting. People who are harmed by gambling benefit not from assumptions but from being asked open-ended questions such as, ‘How did that affect you?’. Ask them how you can best support them and really listen for their answer. It might not be what you expect.

Offer your own support but also let them know that free and confidential support and guidance is readily available 24 hours a day on 1800 858 858.

Provide them with information about help resources and services in acknowledgement that reaching out for help isn’t easy. No one has to go it alone.

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