Time for action to reduce gambling harm-related suicides - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Time for action to reduce gambling harm-related suicides

It’s time the federal and state governments in Australia recognised gambling harm as a serious public health issue, Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman, the Rev Tim Costello, says on this World Suicide Prevention Day.

Rev Costello said there was an established link between mental ill-health, suicide and gambling harm that could no longer be ignored by governments.

“It’s up to the Federal Government, and especially state governments, to enact gambling reforms that will minimise the harm caused by this addictive product,” Rev Costello said.

“They have the power to make change, yet they are shirking their responsibilities to our community, and in the meantime lives are literally being lost.

“I’ve ministered at funerals for people who have died by suicide due to gambling harm. I don’t want to have to do that again; I don’t want to have to see families and friends grieving over the loss of someone who could have been saved if we had more effective gambling regulations.”

Rev Costello said the Victorian Government in particular had some work to do.

“Premier Daniel Andrews has rightfully put mental ill-health on the agenda with the Royal Commission, and we applaud him and his government for that, but they can no longer pretend that gambling doesn’t play a role in mental ill-health,” Rev Costello said.

“Despite the Victorian Government positioning themselves as champions of mental health, there’s no planned action to address the link between gambling harm in the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Gambling harm did not get mentioned in the Royal Commission’s terms of reference either.

“How can this be when there is wide understanding that gambling harm and mental ill-health are inextricably linked? One cannot be adequately addressed and improved without the implementation of strategies that address and improve the other.

“If the Victorian Government really was as a champion for mental health reforms, it would step up and take the lead on gambling reform.”

Rev Costello said World Suicide Prevention Day provided the perfect opportunity for our leaders to commit to taking action to save lives.

“It was only last year in 2018 that a Swedish study showed there was a 15-fold increase in suicide mortality for people experiencing gambling issues compared to the general population aged 20-74 years old,” Rev Costello said. “That’s in a country where gambling is nowhere near as prevalent as it is in Australia.

“Sadly, we don’t have strong research like this in Australia as the issue isn’t being prioritised as it should. How are elected representatives going to improve the public health response to mental ill-health without knowledge of the full picture of gambling related harm?

“We can’t afford to keep sweeping this issue under the carpet. It’s time for action and it has to come from those who can make the necessary changes -- our political leaders.”

For media inquiries contact Rebecca Thorpe on rebecca@agr.org.au or 0491 209 436.