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Gambling...does it affect your children and young people?

Nov 14, 2019

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Gambling is everywhere. Betting shops, billboards, football shirts and a myriad of online sites accessible 24 hours a day – it’s hard to avoid.

The Gambling Commissions latest report (November 2018) stated that there were 450,000 young people who gambled using their own money in the past seven days and there was upwards of 55,000 problematic young gamblers in the UK.

For many, gambling, the Grand National for example, is just a bit of fun.  As part of the sweep stake at previous work places, I have tended to pick out a horse because its name appealed me for some reason and after the race, I simply put the experience down to a ‘bit of a laugh’. However, for problematic gamblers it can lead to a catalogue of life-changing events. It impacts hugely on individual lives but also whole families and communities.

People become problematic gamblers for all sorts of reasons. Often the individual has an underlying mental health issue (maybe unrecognised), they may be socially isolated, not doing well in the work place, academically or suffering from low self-esteem and confidence. Often, these issues, like buses, come in twos or threes.

Gambling can therefore provide an escape or a distraction from real life which is often difficult and complex, and it may be the only time that individuals feel connected to the world.

The paradox is that gambling, if not kept in check, will only act to exacerbate a person’s sense of feeling overwhelmed.

Unlike other forms of addiction, gambling is more difficult to spot. However, like other compulsive behaviours there are telltale signs such as neglecting personal hygiene, becoming secretive or lying about how much time and money is being spent on the habit.

Children may miss school or be unable to concentrate in lessons due either to extreme fatigue or the desire to return to their favourite sites. Compulsive gamblers may turn away from friendships or exhibit wide mood changes. The great buzz or high when winning generally swings into a deep low, anxiety and depression when losing.

Extreme mood changes can have an impact on the brain’s chemistry and the ‘feel good’ factors we generally attain through enjoying a well-prepared meal or a loving relationship can only be replicated in compulsive gambling behaviour.

YGAM, is a charity that educates young people about the potential risks of online gaming and gambling. We deliver a PSHE Association and Pearson accredited harm-prevention programme and provide materials and activities to guide young people, enabling them to make smart choices. ‘In the Know’, is a student led programme that includes both short and longer, more in-depth activities to support young people on their own learning journey.

YGAM offer free training for anyone working with young people at various locations across the country – you can find out more at www.ygam.org