This blog was written for UK Youth by Rebecca Mark from YGAM
It’s Mental Health Week here in the UK and we wanted to use this opportunity to raise public awareness of the mental health issues surrounding online gaming and gambling. You might not realise it, but it has become incredibly easy to gamble. Between betting shops, billboards, lottery tickets or scratchcards, and a myriad of online sites and games it can be hard to avoid.
The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) is a charity that educates young people about the potential risks of online gaming and gambling. According to the latest report from the Gambling Commission, published in November 2018, there were 450,000 young people who had gambled in the past seven days using their own money and approximately 55,000 young gamblers deemed to be problematic.
Whilst gambling is exceptionally accessible, for many people it remains something done occasionally for fun. However, for some, it becomes hugely problematic impacting on the individual, their families and even the community. The path to a gambling addiction is not straight forward and people can become problematic gamblers for all sorts of reasons. Often underlying (and possibly undiagnosed) mental health issues can trigger this compulsion. Individuals may be socially isolated, not doing well in the work place, academically or suffering from low self-esteem and confidence. Often individuals might be facing multiple issues.
Gambling can provide an escape or a distraction from real life which can be 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 and add to any existing mental health issues.
A gambling addiction can be challenging to uncover. 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. 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. These ‘mood swings’ can actually have a physical impact on the brain’s chemistry and the ‘feel good’ chemicals we generally attain through enjoying a well-prepared meal or a loving relationship can become tied to compulsive gambling behaviour.
At YGAM 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 cross-curricular, student led programme that includes both short and longer, more in-depth activities to support young people on their own learning journey.
If you work with young people and would like to attend a workshop, register here: www.ygam.org/book-workshops
They run regularly, throughout the year in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. We currently offer them free of charge and are happy to discuss running closed workshops for teams and colleagues. To discuss different possibilities please call 07944 447751.