SINGAPORE: More family members of problem gamblers are now seeking help, say stakeholders at the Singapore Problem Gambling Conference on Tuesday.
Addressing the conference, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said that while the government will strengthen social safeguards, family support is key in aiding a gambler’s recovery process.
The lure of making easy money could entice a person. But the consequences of addiction harm many, specifically family members.
That’s an issue discussed at the conference on problem gambling, the first since the two casinos in Singapore opened in 2010.
Studies in Singapore have shown that family members of problem gamblers typically undergo financial and emotional stress.
Other than anger and embarrassment, they also face threats of suicide by the gamblers and constant harassment by moneylenders. Many also lose their savings to bail out the gamblers.
So the message to them is: do not suffer in silence.
Acting Minister Chan said families should seek help. He said: "While the family can be a victim of problem gambling, it can also be a part of the solution.
"Family members are often the ones who know best whether their loved ones have a gambling problem or may need help.
"Studies have also found that counselling and therapy work best if family members accompany the gambler to the sessions."
Stakeholders are still tracking the statistics, but social workers like Mr Charles Lee, programme director at Thye Hua Kwan Problem Gambling Recovery Centre, said there has been a noticeable trend of more family members seeking help.
Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society says this is different compared with three to four years ago when a majority of cases involved problem gamblers themselves seeking help.
Mr Lee said: "Sometimes it is a wife, usually it is the daughter bringing the mother in because the brother is a problem gambler. Sometimes we see a whole lot — parents and their siblings — because one of them is a problem gambler.
"We are seeing more family members coming for help. When both the family and the problem gambler seek help, of course they both learn to change their ways and then the recovery may then become faster.
"One of the reasons that they are seeking help is because they know where to seek help nowadays, because of the amount of public education that’s going on."
Counsellor John Chua at the Institute of Mental Health’s National Addictions Management Service attributed this to greater awareness.
He said: "People are more aware now, so we do see a slight increase in terms of problem gamblers coming forward for help and family members are also, to some degree, more willing to also be involved in the treatment."
Acknowledging this trend, social workers have rolled out more programmes targeting family members.
The National Addictions Management Service at the Institute of Mental Health recently started an eight—week initiative for family members of compulsive gamblers.
About 13 participants have been involved to date.
Mr Chua said: "It helps to understand what gambling addiction is all about, talking about the impact, the crisis management, talking about financial management, emphasising a lot on self—care, and also helping to understand the relapse and preventing the relapse of the gambler."
There are also plans to introduce a support programme that treats both gamblers and family members.
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