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The Links Between Problem Gambling & Suicide

man depressed about gambling losses contemplates suicide

A whopping 70% year-over-year increase in calls for help with problem gambling has alerted Ohio's prevention and mental health professionals to be aware of potential dangers stemming from challenges with gambling. In advance of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 and throughout National Suicide Month in September, the folks at the nonprofit Ohio for Responsible Gambling remind players, families, and behavioral health professionals to consistently watch for the signs and symptoms of suicide.

Tony Coder, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, said there's a strong connection between a person's mental health and gambling activity. "Research tells us that of those experiencing a gambling disorder, up to 38% will consider suicide," Coder said. "That's the highest suicide rate among those experiencing a form of addiction. Those experiencing problem gambling need to know there is support available and people who can help."

The 2017 Report on Problem Gambling Services shows that nearly one in ten Ohioans who gamble are currently experiencing or are at-risk of developing a gambling problem. That's more than 900,000 Ohio residents.

"With sports betting now legal, we need everyone to understand the risks and learn about setting limits," said Derek Longmeier, executive director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.

Longmeier said early detection is key to limit gambling from getting out of hand. He said there aren't physical symptoms to problem gambling, but there are behaviors that tend to be red flags:

  • Lying or hiding how much time and money is spent gambling

  • Showing a sudden decrease in work performance

  • Asking for loans or bailouts to get out of debt

  • Using money for core expenses like food and rent for gambling

  • Betting more than you can afford to lose

  • Chasing the excitement by gambling with larger amounts of money

Anyone having suicidal thoughts should call the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Those concerned should use Ohio's Problem Gambling Helpline which connects individuals with local resources that are free and confidential. Trained and understanding specialists will answer 24/7 at 1-800-589-9966 or text 4HOPE to 741741.

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