Letter to the editor.
This is a letter to the editor from the Finger Lakes Problem Gambling Resource Center. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the writer and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of The Ithaca Voice. To learn more about submitting letters, click here.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health refers to our emotional and mental wellness. How we think and feel can attribute to the behaviors we display. Many individuals struggle with their mental health on a daily basis. A variety of factors come into play, but have you ever thought about problem gambling as a source of emotional distress for someone?

Nearly 668,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year. That is a lot of family, friends, and colleagues having trouble.  Problems from gambling can include sleep issues, strains on relationships with loved ones, and struggles at work.

Each person struggling with problem gambling affects 6-10 of those closest to them.  A study found that 9 out of 10 people affected by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress.  This means that between the people struggling with problem gambling and the people closest to them, nearly 6.7 million New Yorkers are affected and may struggle with mental health issues.

People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk of struggling with other mental health disorders. Two out of three gamblers reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling problems. In addition to struggling with gambling, they may be struggling with mental health problems such as a mood disorder like depression, a personality disorder, and anxiety. On top of that, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. About 50% of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17% of these individuals have attempted suicide. That’s a frightening statistic.

How can we tell if someone is struggling with a gambling addiction? There are many warning signs to look out for including:

  • being absent from friend/family events because of gambling,
  • feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling,
  • low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with betting, and
  • lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling

If you or a loved one identifies with having a gambling problem, help is available! The Finger Lakes Problem Gambling Resource Center is a local resource for all gambling-related services. We aim to increase awareness on problem gambling and connect those negatively affected and their loved ones to care. Call/text us today (585) 351-2262 or FingerLakesPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org to learn more!

Jenna Hotaling

Team Leader Finger Lakes PGRC