On February 17, 2023, TWU Local 512 EAP Coordinators attended a seminar at Chicago Behavioral Hospital 555 Wilson Lane in Des Plaines. It was titled ’Understanding Suicide Risk Among Compulsive Gamblers’ by Michael Goldman, M.A. Mr. Goldman has been a trainer and certified addictions counselor for the past 39 years and certified employee assistance program counselor the past 34 years.
This topic coincides with the biggest sporting event that gamblers bet on, March Madness. National certified gambling counselor Uberto Mondolfi has been saying, “They call it ‘March Madness, April Suicide’ in the recovery gambling business.” It's interesting to note that March is also National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
March Madness refers to the final weeks of the US college basketball tournament that features many top schools from across the country. It's called madness simply because there are many games going on simultaneously all over the country, in a quick succession during the month of March. For the compulsive gambler, March Madness presents a vast multitude of opportunities to place bets on the tournament which is like a kid in a candy store. "45 million Americans plan to wager on March Madness. 20.9 million American adults expect to bet on the tournament outside of bracket contests—at a retail sportsbook, online, with a bookie or casually with friends. 36.5 million Americans will wager via a bracket contest or similar pool."
Compulsive gamblers may feel like they've failed by not winning and can often go undetected, resulting in consequences for the gambler and their family. Problem gamblers are often the last ones to realize what is happening to them despite mounting negative consequences and increasing emotional impact. These days we are bombarded by commercials and conversations about gambling, and you can’t watch a sporting event without seeing a single commercial during a break about gambling. With legalized gambling it’s easier than ever to place a bet.
There are common warning signs to look out for:
1) Spending more time or money than intended
2) Arguing with family and friends after gambling
3) After losing, compulsive gamblers have a need to return as soon as possible to
win their money back.
4) Betting is no longer about having fun or winning
Gambling, like the use of alcohol and drugs, can become an emotional coping strategy where it is possible for a person to become obsessed with an overwhelming urge to â€‹gamble. Dopamine, a chemical messenger in our brains that release feelings of pleasure, is what makes gambling so addicting.
“The suicide rate for Compulsive Gamblers (CG’ers) is 20 X’s higher than the general
population (WHO). There are about 2 million CG’ers and 4-6 million problem gamblers in the U.S. 18-25% of CG’ers will attempt suicide. These rates go up in early spring. 7- 11% of alcoholics will attempt suicide. 11-13% of drug dependent people will do the same. The WHO (World Health Organization) said 5% of all suicides are related to CG. According to one 2010 study, 17% of their ER admissions for suicide were CG related. Another 2003 study found that percentage to be10%. According to Dr. Otto Kausch MD Forensic Psychiatry (2003), almost 40% of patients admitted to a treatment program for CG had at least one suicide attempt.”
The stress, pain, and isolation of a gambling problem may cause some individuals to having thoughts of suicide. It is possible for problem gamblers to recover and lead healthy lives. The EAP (employee assistance program) can guide the compulsive gambler or a concerned person to programs that can lead to recovery. If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please get immediate help by calling: National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK or 24-Hour Problem Gamblers Helpline: 1-800-522-4700