The Tragic Link Between Gambling Addiction and Suicide – Removing the Stigma

gambling-addiction-and-suicide-removing-the-stigmas

The Tragic Link Between Gambling Addiction and Suicide - Removing the Stigma

Gambling addiction is a serious mental health condition that can have devastating consequences, including a heightened risk of suicide. Recent research sheds light on the complex relationship between gambling disorder and suicidal behavior, underscoring the critical need to recognize problem gambling as a legitimate addiction requiring compassionate treatment rather than shame or stigma.

 

The Connection Between Problem Gambling and Suicide

The review, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, analyzed 20 qualitative studies on gambling-related suicides and suicidality. The findings reveal two main pathways connecting gambling disorder to suicide risk:

 

  • 1. Indebtedness: Unmanageable gambling debts and significant financial losses were a major contributor to suicidal behavior across multiple studies. The desperation of insurmountable debt can make suicide feel like the only escape.

 

  • 2. Shame: Deep feelings of guilt and shame related to gambling problems also emerged as a key risk factor for suicidality. The stigma surrounding gambling addiction can make it very difficult to reach out for help.

 

While other factors like depression and substance abuse also played a role, the review found that in many cases, these co-occurring conditions developed after the onset of problem gambling.

 

Lack of Adequate Funding and Resources

 Despite the severe consequences of gambling addiction, the 2021 NAADGS Survey of Publicly Funded Problem Gambling Services in the United States reveals a troubling lack of resources dedicated to prevention and treatment. Consider these statistics:

 

  • – In 2021, the 42 U.S. states that offered publicly funded problem gambling services allocated an average of just $0.40 per capita. Nine states had no dedicated funding at all.

 

  • – On average, only 38 percent of state problem gambling services budgets were allocated to treatment, while a mere 11 percent went to prevention. Gambling helpline call volumes have declined 23 percent since 2016, likely reflecting a lack of awareness and accessibility of services.

 

  • – On average, only 38 percent of state problem gambling services budgets were allocated to treatment, while a mere 11 percent went to prevention. Gambling helpline call volumes have declined 23 percent since 2016, likely reflecting a lack of awareness and accessibility of services.

 

The Need for Comprehensive Treatment and Stigma Reduction

Gambling disorder is a complex addiction that requires professional treatment, not condemnation. The review highlighted that specialized gambling treatment programs utilizing cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and other evidence-based modalities have helped people recover. 

 

However, shame and indebtedness also function as major barriers preventing people from seeking the help they need before reaching a point of suicidal crisis. Overcoming the stigma that gambling problems are a personal failing rather than a treatable condition is essential to encouraging people to access support services.

 

The 2021 survey found the highest-rated “need” by far was improved integration of problem gambling into behavioral health services. Other top priorities included increased dedicated funding, more recovery resources, expanded research, and better prevention efforts. Investing in these areas is critical to building an adequate safety net.

 

Key Takeaway

Gambling disorder is a mental health condition, not a character flaw. It can lead to financial ruin, intense shame, and tragic loss of life. If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, please know that you are not alone and it is not your fault. Compassionate, effective help is available. Reaching out is a courageous first step on the path to healing.

 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

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