Are you thinking about talking to your family member or friend about their gambling?
Family members and friends can be really helpful in supporting people who experience gambling harm. If you’re worried about a family member or friend’s gambling, it’s important to talk to them about your concerns. However, this can be a difficult conversation, especially if they’re not ready to hear it. It’s common to feel unsure about what to say and for the conversation to be uncomfortable for both of you. To make the conversation easier, it’s best to prepare by taking care of yourself, learning more about gambling, planning what you want to say, and anticipating their reaction.
How can you take care of yourself?
Before you help someone else, it’s important to take care of your own physical and mental health. We know this can be challenging when you’re dealing with the impact of a family member or friend’s gambling. However, some of the things you can do to look after yourself and to help you feel better equipped to support a family member or friend include: exercising, practicing mindfulness and mediation, getting enough sleep, eating well, and seeking support from friends or a counsellor. See Looking After Yourself for more information.
How can you learn more about gambling?
Educating yourself about gambling can be an important step in helping someone who experiences gambling harm. Before you talk to your family member or friend, it’s a good idea to learn about gambling and the resources that are available. By educating yourself, you’ll be better prepared for the conversation and feel more supported. Understanding a family member or friend’s experience can also help you communicate more effectively with them. When someone feels heard and understood, they’re more likely to share openly and honestly, which can lead to more productive conversations.
Our website contains information that can help you to educate yourself about gambling. Topics that might be helpful include:
- Learn about Gambling
- Learn about Online Gambling
- How Gaming Works
- Gambling and Young People
- Gambling in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities
- Gambling in Culturally Diverse Communities
- Gambling Problems and Harms
- Links to Other Issues , including mental health issues, substance use, and family violence
- Factors That Contribute To Harmful Gambling
- Why People Gamble, and
- Stages of Change, which involves how people become ready to change
If your family member or friend has already made a start in changing their gambling but is now facing some challenges in their recovery, our website also has information that can help you understand this stage of recovery. Helpful topics include:
- Managing Lapses and Relapse
- Understanding Urges, and
- Overcoming Challenges, which includes relationship, financial, and legal challenges
If a family member or friend needs help with their gambling, they don’t have to go through it alone. Supporting someone who is experiencing gambling harm can be overwhelming, so it’s important to understand the different types of help available. There are many ways to get help. Some people prefer to try to manage their own gambling, while others might benefit from one of the available support or counselling options. Your family member or friend may also choose to ban themselves from gambling venues or websites. You can play an important role in helping your family member or friend find the right type of help that works for them.
For more information about the different types of help available, take a look at:
How can you plan what you want to say?
When preparing to have a conversation with a family member or friend about their gambling, there are a few key things to consider.
Choose a private and distraction-free location where both of you feel comfortable sharing openly.
Choose a time when they seem open having a conversation, you are calm, and you both have enough time to talk.
Reflect on your goals for the conversation and choose what you really want to say to your family member or friend.
Think about how the conversation might go and use your past experiences to inform your plan. Consider what has and hasn’t worked well in difficult conversations that you’ve had in the past, and use this information to help guide the conversation. See Having the Conversation for more information on how you might talk to your family member or friend about their gambling.
How can you anticipate their reaction?
When talking to your family member or friend about their gambling, it may help to prepare yourself for the full range of possible responses. They may be grateful for your concern and willing to discuss their gambling openly. However, other possible reactions include minimising or denying that they experience any harm, becoming angry or defensive, or blaming others and being unable to take any responsibility for their behaviour.
They may also simply not be ready to change their behaviour. While the harms of your family member or friend’s gambling may seem very obvious to you, they may not view their gambling as harmful, and may not be ready to consider change. Having a conversation with you may be the first time that they have discussed their gambling with anyone, and that this might cause them to reflect on their gambling for the very first time. See our information on Stages of Change for more information about how people become ready to change their gambling. Additionally, many people are nervous about seeking support for the first time – read more about the barriers some people experience when seeking support in our section on Seeking Support.
If your family member or friend reacts negatively or doesn’t want to talk, there are strategies you can use to continue the conversation and help them find the support they need. See Having the Conversation for more information.
If your family member or friend has a history of violence, aggression, or other emotional instability, you may feel anxious or fearful about having a conversation with them about their gambling. There is no excuse for abusive behaviour. Although it is a good idea to educate yourself about gambling, try not to let this understanding justify or excuse abusive behaviour. Essentially, you should never put yourself in harm’s way to try to support someone else in relation to their gambling. If you don’t feel comfortable starting the conversation, it might be best to wait until you feel safe to do so or to come up with a safety plan with the support of a counsellor. If this is the case for you, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t have to handle the situation alone and there are resources available to help you.
If you feel that you need more support to prepare for a conversation with your family member or friend about their gambling, there are gambling counsellors that are available to help you. They can help you to develop strategies to approach the conversation and create a safe space for the discussion.
Do you want more help?
For help to get ready for the conversation, you or your family member or friend can start an online chat with us or call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 – free, confidential, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
These services are available to support anyone affected by gambling harm, including family members or friends like you. It’s not only the person who gambles that can be affected, but the people close to them too. It’s important to take care of yourself when you’re supporting someone else. Check out the family and friends section in our peer support community to connect with people who understand.
Looking for information about asking for support?
This page is designed for people who are supporting loved ones through gambling harm. If you're looking for support for yourself or a client, take a look at this page instead:
If you'd still like to view this page, you can change your personalisation settings in the right-hand side menu.