New report shows gambling problems and mental illness frequently occur together

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation today released a research report that shows problem gambling prevalence in gamblers who attended mental health services was eight times higher than in the Victorian general population, with one in two gamblers experiencing some level of gambling harm.

The report, Problem gambling in people seeking treatment for mental illness, explored the level of gambling harm experienced by people seeking treatment for mental illness at mental health services and the responses and behaviours of doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other mental health clinicians.

The study author, Turning Point Director Professor Dan Lubman, said the findings show we need a system that supports effective treatment of individuals suffering with both mental illness and gambling problems.

“What we found is that problem gambling often remains hidden, undetected and untreated among patients receiving treatment for mental health, so early identification and intervention is critical.

“Interviews that we conducted with mental health clinicians as part of our research confirmed that screening for problem gambling was largely ad hoc and occurred only if there was ‘red flags’.

“Without screening, people with gambling problems may seek help for a mental illness, without their gambling problems being recognised,” he said.

Professor Lubman said there was limited awareness of relevant screening tools available and yet there was a strong level of support for having a routine gambling screen for use by mental health clinicians.

“It was very encouraging that most clinicians recognise the importance of screening for problem gambling and over 80 per cent agreed that mental health and gambling clinicians can work together effectively.

“We were also able to test a variety of screens for problem gambling to determine a recommended screen for use in mental health settings,” he said.

Louise Glanville, CEO of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, said that the report identified that mental health clinicians would benefit from receiving targeted training in the assessment and management of problem gambling.

“The report confirms that the risk of gambling-related harm is greater among those with mental illness and we now need to enhance the support provided for these individuals.

“The foundation is keen to work with healthcare professionals and others to support them to screen for problem gambling and further strengthen partnerships between mental health and local Gambler’s Help services,” she said.

The three year study included a literature review, a clinician survey and qualitative interviews as well as client surveys and psychometric testing of the problem gambling screens and was funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

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