A major contributor to mental ill-health has been all but overlooked in the Interim Report handed down today by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said he was astounded to read that gambling harm barely rated a mention in the Interim Report.
“Failing to have any real mention of gambling harm in their Interim Report is an appalling oversight by the Royal Commission, and is a major concern,” Rev Costello said.
“The link between gambling harm and mental ill-health is well-known, and it sadly extends well beyond financial losses. We know people experiencing gambling harm suffer higher rates of mental-ill health, and people suffering mental ill-health are also more vulnerable to gambling harm.
“Not addressing gambling harm in this Interim Report is effectively ignoring an issue that is a contributor to homelessness, family violence, mental ill-health and even some deaths by suicide.
“It’s hard to have faith that there will be any real benefits extending from this Royal Commission for those living with mental ill-health when such a massive oversight exists within this Interim Report. We call on the Royal Commission to correct this oversight and ensure it addresses the significant issue of gambling harm in its Final Report.”
Rev Costello applauded the Royal Commission for addressing the social determinants of mental ill-health in its Interim Report, but questioned why gambling harm was not addressed in the relevant chapter.
“It’s difficult to fathom why gambling harm did not rate a single mention when discussing the social determinants of mental ill-health, when it so clearly is a significant factor,” he said.
“The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s submission to the Royal Commission highlighted that gambling harm is estimated to account for 22 per cent of the Victorian mental health sector’s costs. How on earth can this Interim Report fail to address what is effectively an issue that is a drain on our mental health system, especially when it’s an issue that is fundamentally preventable?”
Members of the Alliance for Gambling Reform were recently joined on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House to highlight the links between mental ill-health and gambling harm.
“On the day we especially acknowledged the 128 Victorians who died by suicide with gambling harm listed as a a contributing factor between 2000 and 2012,” Rev Costello said. “Unfortunately there will have been many more recent deaths by suicide with gambling harm connections, but we don’t have data on them as the Victorian Coroner currently does not question if gambling harm was a factor in such deaths.”
Rev Costello said the fact the Royal Commission’s terms of reference did not include gambling harm indicated the Victorian Government was not willing to address gambling harm as the significant public health and mental health issue that is.
“To get a sense of how significant a problem gambling harm is in Victoria, the latest data shows that Victorians lose $7.4 million a day on poker machines alone,” Rev Costello said. “The Victorian Government’s solution was to announce a drop-in-the-ocean $2 million in annual funding for prevention programs. It would be laughable if it wasn’t such a sad issue.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe, 0491 209 436 or [email protected]