During Gambling Awareness Week, mother-of-two *Mila Ong shared her family’s story to reveal the impact problem gambling can have on an individual and those around them, and to show others that help is available.
When Ms Ong first married, her husband had a good job, played football and met his friends for occasional poker nights. He then started to bet online.
“In the beginning, it was harmless, just a little bet now and then,” she said.
“But soon it became so frequent we didn’t have our nights together. Then I would catch him in the middle of the night, using two phones to place bets.”
Ms Ong is supported by Settlement Services International (SSI)’s Multicultural Gambling Harm Prevention and Support Services (MGHPS).
The service is designed for those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and provides free support in-language to individuals, families and communities experiencing gambling harm in Victoria. Assistance includes one-on-one counselling, group therapy and community information sessions.
Ms Ong reflected how the family dynamic started shifting as her husband spent less time with the family and more time online.
“His moods began to change. He would lose money and not want to talk about it or win money and either spend it on himself or another bet. Soon he was deep in gambling debt.”
“He never wanted to talk about his gambling issue making me feel guilty, as though the problem didn’t exist, and it was all in my head.”
Ms Ong separated from her husband who continues to struggle with gambling.
Warning signs that gambling could be getting out of hand include:
- struggling to manage finances or borrowing money to gamble
- spending more time or money than intended
- feeling guilty or stressed about gambling
- arguing with family after gambling or struggling to maintain friendships
While people may recognise these harms, they don’t always associate them with their own gambling.
Over the past two years, SSI’s MGHPS program has worked with 24 different community organisations across Victoria in 18 different languages, including faith communities and international student support groups, to help educate and raise awareness about gambling harm.
The theme of this year’s Gambling Harm Awareness Week is ‘Could gambling be affecting your wellbeing?’.
SSI Therapeutic Counsellor Jaynelle Samuels said that it’s important for stories like Ms Ong’s to be shared more widely.
“During Gambling Harm Awareness Week, we want people from diverse backgrounds to discuss the issue of problem gambling and the harms it can cause within our communities. We hope others speak out and ask for help.”
If you live in another state, you can visit Lifeline’s problem gambling webpage or call on 13 11 14.
*To protect identities, pseudonyms have been used.