This new clinic in Sunderland will treat those as young as 13 for gambling addiction

NHS England is rolling out a gambling clinic for children which will open this year as part of their new network of services for addicts.

By Rhona Shennan
Monday, 24 June, 2019, 13:39
Have you ever worried about your gambling habits? (Photo: Shutterstock)

The NHS says: “Hundreds of thousands of people in England have a serious problem with gambling, with an additional two million at risk of developing a disorder.”

The NHS Northern Gambling Clinic

This service would be led by a consultant psychologist and a team of mental health nurses, a psychiatrist and a carer support worker.

The clinic would also feature a research element to the treatment in order to evaluate the interventions and open up the possibility of developing future treatment models.

The clinic is designed to provide treatment for those at risk or already addicted to gambling.

They will also cater to those whose cases are regarded as severe or complex.

Initially opening in Leeds in spring 2019, the clinic will be extended to Sunderland and across the whole of the north of England within six months.

Gambling problems in the UK

According to the Gambling Commission, 55,000 children in the UK have been classed as having a gambling problem, with 450,000 gambling regularly.

This is more than the number of children who have taken drugs, drank alcohol or smoked.

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: “The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost and families destroyed.

“This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people.”

Matt Gaskell is a consultant psychologist for addiction services and will be the clinic lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Clinic.

Gaskell said: “This is the first time that the NHS has funded gambling addiction treatment in the north of England.

“The NHS Northern Gambling Service can now reach many more individuals and their families, so they can get help with this devastating problem. It will save lives.”

What is a gambling disorder?

Help Guide states: “Your gambling goes from a fun, harmless diversion to an unhealthy obsession with serious consequences.”

A gambling addiction can stem from any form of gambling, from betting on sports, buying scratch cards or going to a casino.

“You may even do things you never thought you would, like running up huge debts or even stealing money to gamble,” Help Guide says.

There’s a difference between suffering from a gambling disorder and being a problem gambler, although both have the capacity to seriously impact your life.

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A gambling disorder is “an impulse-control disorder” explains Help Guide: “You can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for you or your loved ones.

“You’ll gamble whether you’re up or down, broke or flush, and you’ll keep gambling regardless of the consequences - even when you know that the odds are against you or you can’t afford to lose.”

On the other hand, problem gambling is defined as any gambling behaviour that disrupts your life, even if it isn’t totally out of control.

“If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, you have a gambling problem,” says Help Guide.

Gaskell said: “Those diagnosed with gambling disorder often need help with a range of difficulties, including mental health problems.

“It can lead to serious debt and family breakdown, people losing their jobs, people turning to crime in desperation for funds, and even suicide.

“In fact, of all the addictions people suffer from, gambling has the highest suicide rate.”

How to spot a gambling addiction?

The NHS has put together a list of questions to help you determine whether you could be a problem gambler:

- Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?

- Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?

- Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?

- Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?

- Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?

- Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?

- Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?

- Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?

- Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

If these questions sound familiar, you could be suffering from a gambling addiction.

For more information about gambling disorders or getting help, you can visit GamCare where you can access free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK.