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18 Oct 2021

Media releases

Overcoming stigma is key to overcoming gambling addiction

Settlement Services International (SSI) is calling on the community to assist in breaking down the stigma associated with gambling addiction, which causes many people to feel too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.

Gambling Harm Awareness Week (October 18-24) is the ideal time to start a conversation with family, friends, neighbours and others about the negative effects of gambling, share ideas to prevent gambling harm, and find ways to support people who experience harm as a result of their own or someone else’s gambling.

Continuing the theme TALK.SHARE.SUPPORT. for a third year, Gambling Harm Awareness Week aims to create community awareness and understanding about the issue, especially through stories of lived experience, and to make it okay for those affected to reach out.

Michael Kheirallah, Coordinator of SSI’s Multicultural Gambling Harm Prevention Services, said people who experienced gambling harm were not only stigmatised by community attitudes, but also often by their own negative thoughts.

“Low self-esteem and feelings of failure are magnified and perpetuated through societal judgments about character flaws that are inaccurately assigned to the person who experiences gambling harm, and the language used to describe them,” he said.

“Overcoming this stigma is critical to recovery.”

A new series of videos created by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, with the expertise of University of Melbourne neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horvath, explain how gambling affects the way the brain functions and, importantly, how an addiction can be reversed.

“The videos cover why some people become addicted to gambling – for example, products like pokies and roulette are designed to trick a person’s brain so that they feel like they’re winning even when they’re not – and what they can do to overcome the addiction,” Mr Kheirallah said.

“The good news is that it is never too late to retrain the brain, which changes constantly as we learn and take in new experiences. SSI counsellors have the expertise to successfully guide people through this challenging process.”

“We are keen to offer affected individuals and communities alternative, culturally appropriate interventions, provide suggestions and encourage people to participate in other social activities – whether that is through music, writing, exploring new hobbies or as simple as going for a walk,” said Sonia Vignjevic, SSI State Director.

For more information about how gambling affects the brain and to watch the videos, visit

Anyone negatively affected by their own or someone else’s gambling is encouraged to call Settlement Services International (SSI) on 1800 329 192 for free, confidential advice, support and referral.

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