CatholicCare helps people in Western Sydney with insidious gambling addictions

By Jordan Grantham, 5 October 2017
CatholicCare Social Services offers gambling addiction counselling. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

CatholicCare Social Services offers free gambling counselling in Blacktown, Castle Hill, Emerton and Parramatta.

Gambling can be highly addictive, crippling people’s lives and that of their families.

There are diverse reasons for addiction to gambling, including large winnings early in a person’s gambling experience, escaping from stress and trauma, attempting to recoup significant losses and enjoyment of the gambling activities.

Sha Mi is a Problem Gambling Counsellor at CatholicCare Social Services, in the Blacktown office.

“Often people who come to counselling will disclosed that they had won big money (even a few hundred can be significant for a young person) when they first started gambling,” Sha Mi said.

Gambling can be all consuming and block out relationship problems and life’s stresses.

“Gambling becomes a coping mechanism as a way to suppress intense negative emotions and an escape from having to deal with stress, anger, frustration and guilt,” Jenna said, another CatholicCare Counsellor.

“Gambling activities can get people very involved, can be experienced as fun and exciting because of the sounds and lights of the gaming machines and the excitement of sports,” Jenna said.

“We also have clients who used gambling to cope with traumatic experiences (domestic violence, accident, injury, surgery),” Sha Mi added.

“One client said that the only place she could go was the local club to avoid the abuse from her husband.”

Misguided attempts to escape financial difficulty lead gambling addicts to even worse situations.

“One client said that he started gambling heavily after he lost his own business and got into a very difficult financial situation. He thought that he could get some quick money from gambling to recover his losses in business,” Sha Mi said.

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Counsellors at CatholicCare Social Services create evidence-based strategies with their clients to identify their situation and work to improve it.

Some people continue gambling try to recoup losses after losing thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“They could have lost lots of money in gambling and could not let it go. Most people who have developed gambling problem would not describe gambling as interesting.”

“They admit that they feel stressful, guilty and ashamed of what they have done. They are in lots of pain mentally and physically, e.g. unable to sleep, highly anxious, stressed about bills and food,” she said.

“I have client with high income but still struggle to make ends meet because of the gambling problem. One client could not even buy a new bed so the son has to sleep on a mattress on the floor.”

There is hope to recover and some individuals achieve their goals from a single session. There is also hope for families when gambling addiction defies treatment.

“We have had a client whose husband is a problem gambler since the last 20 years. The couple has five children together and both love them dearly,” Shaila, a CatholicCare Social Services Gambling Counsellor said.

“The husband is employed but spends all his money on gambling and does not contribute to family expenses. He thinks he has no issue with gambling.”

“What makes this an unusual case is that the wife and children have continued to stay with the gambler despite the issues with gambling. The wife has a house of her own and is independent of finances although there are financial hardships at times specially when paying Catholic school fees for all her children.”

“This family is one of strength, independence and patience in contrast to the families where the long term outcomes are usually unfavorable for the person with the gambling issue.”

Contact CatholicCare Social Services on 02 8843 2500 for more information and to book an appointment.

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