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Gambling information, advice and support for young people

Mental Health Awareness: Are Young People Staking Their Mental Health on Gambling? 

The English Gambling Education Hub connects with professionals to ask, if our mental health is one of the most valuable things we possess – why would we gamble with it?   

Recognition of the significance of good mental health for young people is at an all-time high. And rightly so. This heightened awareness marks positive strides towards ensuring our young people have the necessary support and frameworks to have control over their own mental health journeys. However, to make real progress, we must answer some critical questions:  Is poor mental health impacted by gambling behaviour, or does gambling behaviour negatively impact mental health in young people? Are we asking the right questions of young people to understand where gambling is an issue, to effectively support them? What is the impact of digital gambling-like behaviour on their overall wellbeing?  

At our recent event, we welcomed Verity Bramwell, the Service Manager for GamCare’s Young People’s Service (YPS), who delivered an insightful report on the tangible harms they witness in their client base. These harms include the emotional toll of gambling harm, familial relationship breakdowns, and financial strain for young people. Verity provided a comprehensive overview of GamCare’s YPS and its unique and distinctive remote support offerings, whilst shedding light on the barriers hindering young people from seeking assistance:  Lack of awareness of the risk of harm – where financial harm, like debt, is not strongly present, and also the impact of comorbidities, have a huge impact on this. But…where are these young people? Are they engaged in services and on potential waiting lists for services for their mental health? If so and potential gambling harm does not form a part of the screening process it will simply not be recognised… 

The voices of our young volunteers from GamCare’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB), educated us in this session about the barriers they experience in accessing support when it comes to their mental health. The YAB were eloquent and insightful when they told us that their main concerns were around awareness, judgement, confidentiality, trust and expectations. Notably, they illuminated the overlooked aspect of gambling affecting their peers as “affected others,” where some may feel guilty and hesitant to prioritise their own needs over those of their afflicted family or friends. This emphasis on young people as affected others was underscored by Verity’s report and call to action, emphasising the imperative to find these young people and acknowledge/address this often ‘hidden’ issue. 

Our diverse group of stakeholders; from NHS practitioners, to local authority and youth service attendees, to representatives from all tiers of education, came together to hear and discuss these barriers to accessing support: The main glaring barrier for the YAB being the danger of young peoples’ own perceptions and expectations – “viewing it as an instant cure-all to their problems. After seeing that their issue didn’t miraculously disappear after one session, a young person may drop out of the service because they’ve lost confidence in its value/efficacy.” (YAB member, 2023)  

We were very lucky to also be joined by representatives Dan Thompson and Nicola Frampton, from Student Minds, the UK wide student mental health charity. With 1 in 4 young people having a mental health diagnosis, and more than 50% of young people having experienced mental health difficulties, Student Minds know it is increasingly crucial to look at the impact gambling can have on young people’s wellbeing and how this can impact their studies, relationships and wellbeing. Three out of four students worry that the cost-of-living crisis could have an impact on their university grade; and along with the financial independence pressures that University brings, gambling can seem like an easy activity to make some extra cash, engage with friendship groups and even provide an escape activity from these new pressures. Student Mind’s have been taking a keen interest in this issue in recent years, particularly watching out for our partner Ygam’s annual student survey (2024); revealing that 60% of students have gambled in the past 12 months with 46% of students who gamble saying gambling had impacted their university experience. 

Gambling is evidently affecting the mental health of young people and whilst services like GamCare’s YPS and Student Minds provide valuable support, these efforts only begin to address the issue. As professionals we must continue this work, creating more awareness of gambling harms, in order to recognise some signs of this harm, connect with our young people, have the conversation around gambling, refer them into appropriate services and ultimately make young people feel supported and safe. 

Missed out on this event and want to catch up? Please find a recording of our event here.   

Against the backdrop of the ongoing Gambling Act Review and impending reform consultations, the English Gambling Education Hub (EGEH) remains committed to advancing discussions that address the unique mental health needs and vulnerabilities of young people. 

Please reach out to GamCare or our partners if you need any support or would like to hear more about how you can engage.  

  • GamCare: Free, confidential, 24/7 support for anyone affected by gambling harms across Great Britain. Call GamCare’s National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 or click here for Live Chat. 
  • GamCare’s YPS: The Young People’s Support Service can support anyone aged 11-25 who is ‘at risk’ or experiencing harm because of gambling.  
  • YAB: GamCare’s Youth Advisory Board gives young people aged 11-17 the chance to be at the heart of decision making at GamCare.  
  • Student Minds: The UK’s student mental health charity with a clear vision: No student should be held back by their mental health. 

Contact us – [email protected]