No waiting list for gambling addiction treatment and support is available across the region, charities say

There is no waiting list for gambling addiction support in Yorkshire and anyone reaching out for help in January can access it immediately, charities have advised.

Help is also available to family members of people with a gambling problem, including children, who can be deeply affected by an older relative’s addiction, according to Mandy Brown, the manager of krysallis, a Yorkshire service that provides counselling to people with a gambling addiction through the GamCare charity.

She said gambling can cause serious physical and emotional harm and urged anyone who needed support to reach out for it.

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Ms Brown said: “Gambling addiction tends to carry far higher levels of shame than other addictions. People don’t always recognise it as an addiction because they can’t see the physical side of it, like, say an alcohol or drug addiction.”

As a result of this, she said the problem was easier to hide and therefore people often reached crisis point and experienced serious harm before reaching out for help.

Though krysallis is based in Harrogate, it covers the whole of the region and has more than 30 professionals across Yorkshire.

She said counsellors can signpost people to services that might be appropriate or start a programme of counselling, which may last anything from a few weeks to longer than a year.

“We don’t have a waiting list, you can just call and have a chat.

“We do a comprehensive assessment within a few days, sometimes the same day if the person is available.”

Charities and NHS in the region work in partnership and she said no matter which service they contact, people in Yorkshire can always be referred to the right service for them.

“There’s no wrong door. It’s all there, ready and waiting,” she said.

The organisation has recently introduced text message sessions, alongside the more common video and phone calls, and has also put plans in place to begin “walk and talk” therapy next year when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“Lots of people don’t like talking on the phone and find it easier being outdoors,” she said.

While some of these techniques are fairly new, they are all delivered by qualified therapists with specialist training on gambling addiction and follow an “evidence-based model of care”.

The charity also provides a service for young people from the age of 11 who are impacted by their own addiction or someone else's.

The National Gambling Helpline is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week and is a free phone number.

People battling a gambling addiction in rural or coastal areas must not feel isolated, a senior clinician has also said.

It can be common to assume all the help is centred around major cities in the region but there is always support available no matter where in Yorkshire a person is based.

James, a carer from Scarborough, spent four months homeless after losing everything through a gambling addiction last year.

This time last year, the 35-year-old was sleeping rough on the beach and could not afford to buy his daughter a Christmas present.

“Nothing mattered until I had nothing left,” he said.

“There were no places in Scarbrough to help. I tried a gambling helpline but I didn’t answer the phone when they called back. I don’t know why, really. You can just put it aside at the time.”

He said it was likely he would have attempted to take his own life if having a young daughter had not kept him going and he was helped back on his feet by the Rainbow Centre charity, which works with people in Scarborough going through a difficult time.

“I could have ended it. I really could have done,” he said.

His ex-partner and a close friend also provided support and he is now working in a care home and has his own flat again.

He said: “I feel good, I have odd days where I feel like I could gamble but I like to paint and draw instead.”

However, he is insistent that Scarborough and areas outside big cities need more investment so they can better support people at risk of addiction.

“There’s literally nothing here. Things have gotten worse economically, the high streets are struggling, yet everywhere you go there’s bookies and casinos.”

Matthew Gaskell, consultant psychologist and clinical lead of the Northern Gambling Service said, though the clinic is based in Leeds, it takes people from all over Yorkshire and the Humber, though people who live outside of Leeds may not know that.

“It’s a huge task to get in front of everyone all over the region,” he said.

He said he was also hoping to increase participation from people from ethnic minority backgrounds as addiction treatment can appear a “white world”.

“There can be cultural barriers as gambling might carry more shame, which can present an issue,” he added.