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Tackling the Stigma of Gambling Addiction: An Interview with Paul Evans

We recently interviewed Paul Evans, the Operational Development Lead for Gambling Harm within Inclusion.


Paul is responsible for the West Midlands Gambling Harms Service, the regional specialist service for people with gambling disorder or experiencing gambling harms. He is also part of the mobilisation team for the new East of England Gambling Harms Clinic.


Both services cover a large part of the UK, including Birmingham; Staffordshire; Shropshire; Wolverhampton Herefordshire; Worcestershire and Coventry in the West Midlands and Milton Keynes; Luton; Cambridgeshire; Bedfordshire; Essex; Suffolk and Norfolk in the East of England.

 

Why are those experiencing gambling harm stigmatised?


Gambling disorder can be developed as a response to underlying stress in someone's life, such as a relationship breakdown, a change in financial status or employment. Unfortunately, people experiencing gambling disorder are often stigmatised and treated as if their gambling is a choice, rather than a condition.


Additionally, demographic factors can further exacerbate the stigma faced by an individual experiencing gambling disorder. Paul gave the below example:


“We know that the different communities within our country suffer from problem gambling and gambling disorder. [For example], there is a double stigma within racially diverse communities because there is a religious element to some of the stigma. We know that within Islam, gambling is Haram, so it is forbidden, therefore, anybody who's struggling with their gambling behaviours, from within an ethnically diverse community, can really suffer from double barrier to accessing treatment.”

Many other factors can also contribute to the stigma faced by those experiencing gambling harm. To encourage as many people as possible to access treatment, it is vital to spread the message that problem gambling can affect anyone, regardless of their background. Paul emphasised this, saying:


“What we're trying to do is to work with [people] to advertise the availability of treatments and also to show that people can struggle with gambling, not for any moral failing, but more around the fact that they’re just human… and humans are susceptible to some problems with their behaviours.”

All of the above issues are added to by the prevalence of the gambling industry’s advertising and ease of access to gambling products, with the advent of smartphones people have access to gambling apps 24/7 essentially a ‘casino in their pocket’.


"We see this as a Public Health issue and as such would look for changes within the gambling industry, such as the level of advertising which, if reduced, would support prevention rather than passing the onus for resolution to individuals and health care professionals."

 

About the West Midlands Gambling Service and the East of England Gambling Harms Clinic


The West Midlands Gambling Service is part of the national NHS rollout of gambling harm services. It has been in operation since 2022 and helps people to manage their problem gambling and behaviours. It offers a 10-week programme of CBT-based group sessions to individuals experiencing gambling disorder.


People experiencing gambling harm can self-refer or be referred by a professional. The service aims to offer a clinical assessment within 72 hours; following that, people experiencing gambling harms are provided with group sessions.


Once the East of England Gambling Harms Clinic is live, it will offer the same services as the West Midlands Gambling Service.


 

Encouraging people to seek help


Paul encourages people experiencing problems with respect to their gambling to seek help with local services. We asked him what he would share with individuals experiencing problem gambling or gambling disorder. He said:


“There's hope for change. You know, with the right support and interventions. Despite how difficult [people’s] experience and backgrounds might be, [by connecting] with treatment services, things can get a lot better and not just for them, but also for their loved ones.
“We know that people can feel shame, embarrassment and lots of other difficult feelings around their gambling behaviours. But we're not here to judge anybody. You know, they're struggling because they're human.”

Thank you to Paul for taking the time to talk with us and share this valuable information.


Read more about the East Midlands Gambling Service and East of England Gambling Service:



Learn more about our Stigma Kills campaign: www.stigmakills.org.uk


Find out more about the NHS APA on our website: https://www.nhsapa.org/about-us


 

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