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Combatting the stigma of gambling harms


Dr Joanne Lloyd, Reader in Cyberpsychology in the School of Psychology, talks about tackling stigma in GambleAware’s latest impactful campaign.

Today sees the launch of GambleAware’s brand-new campaign and I’m proud to say I had the privilege of being part of it.

The new major new public health awareness campaign focuses on reducing stigma and opening up the conversation around gambling harms. This campaign follows on from new research which found stigma to be one of the biggest barriers stopping people from accessing support.

Of course, I was already aware that stigma was on GambleAware’s radar, as I am currently leading a programme of research funded by GambleAware, which involves several studies into how and why the stigmatisation of gambling harms happens, who this impacts, and how we might go about improving support for those affected.

Understanding stigma in relation to gambling harms is not as advanced as some other conditions - so we still have a lot to learn from the research that is currently underway.

However, we do know that stigma is a major issue experienced by people who are harmed by gambling. Not only is it a harmful and negative experience for a person to encounter, in and of itself, but it can also hold people back from seeking help and support for gambling.

The new research by GambleAware found that three-quarters of people experiencing gambling problems feel they can’t talk to loved ones about it, and that stigma was the biggest barrier to opening up. The same study also revealed that around a quarter of us believe we know someone who has experienced problems with gambling, but three in five of us are put off from talking to them about it because of worries about stigma.

This is a major issue. Gambling harms can seriously impact people’s finances, their relationships, and their mental and physical health. There is help available and fantastic support out there, but the stigma is holding many people back from reaching out and seeking support. This is why GambleAware has launched its new campaign to tackle stigma, and why I felt strongly that I wanted to help them get the message out there.

As part of the campaign, I was interviewed by presenter Tyler West for a short film, speaking about my professional experience of researching gambling and stigma. During that experience, I had the pleasure of meeting Martin Paterson and Stacey Goodwin, who are the real heroes of the film, speaking very honestly and movingly about their own lived experiences of gambling harms.

I have always been passionate about gambling research and the potential it has to improve our knowledge of gambling harms and inform prevention and treatment. But contributing to a media campaign of this nature was totally new to me. It has been fantastic to be able to play a part in raising public awareness about gambling harms and the stigma people can experience, and I am hopeful that this campaign can begin to combat that stigma and make it that bit easier for people who need help and support to open up to a loved one or a professional.

GambleAware has produced some fantastic resources with the goal of encouraging people to start having open conversations about gambling and to feel more able to seek help and support, without fear of stigma. You will likely come across the campaign on tv or social media in the coming weeks and I encourage all of you to take a moment to listen and to their stories. Never underestimate the power of social media, you never know, someone you may know may be affected and a simple share or retweet may reach the right person at the right time, in need of that support.

It’s important to remember there’s no shame in asking for help, it’s one of the strongest steps you can take. I’m so proud to have been part of the campaign and hope you will join me in raising awareness to support those who need it most. Together, we will break the stigma.

Anyone concerned about their gambling, or worried about a loved one, is encouraged to contact GambleAware for free, confidential advice, tools, and support. The National Gambling Helpline is also available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


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