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Addressing Problem Gambling as a Root Cause for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and unfortunately, the preliminary data for 2022 has shown the highest number of annual deaths by suicide on record. After adjusting for population growth and age, the suicide rate has increased by a staggering 16% since 2011. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) is working to raise awareness of the link between disordered gambling and suicide, as disordered gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. Statistics reveal that 1 in 5 compulsive gamblers will attempt suicide.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in mental health symptoms has been noted, leading to rising suicide rates. Financial stressors, particularly in light of rising inflation, and difficulty in accessing needed mental health care have also contributed to the increase in suicide rates. The FCCG has highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the issue of problem gambling, as observed through contacts to its helpline.

Regarding problem gambling as the root cause of suicidal ideation, the FCCG emphasizes the urgent need for attention to this crisis. The 888-ADMIT-IT helpline provides dedicated support and resources for Floridians suffering from gambling addiction 24/7. Gambling addiction can rapidly spiral out of control and cause serious problems in all areas of life, including financial, relational, spiritual, career-wise, and emotionally. The FCCG emphasizes that recovery is possible for disordered gambling, and treatment is available.

The FCCG’s helpline annual report showed increases across all types of mental health, emotional, and domestic issues, reflecting the magnitude and severity of difficulties experienced by problem gamblers. The anonymized data collected from helpline contacts revealed higher levels of anxiety, depression, and neurological disorders compared with the previous year. There was also a significant increase in reports of suicidal ideations or attempts by the gambler and higher levels of mental health and emotional difficulties experienced by female gamblers compared to male gamblers.

If anyone is experiencing suicidal thoughts as a result of gambling addiction, they are encouraged to reach out to the 888-ADMIT-IT helpline for professional help. The FCCG emphasizes that suicide is a permanent response to a temporary problem and that there is always a way out of the hopelessness that one might feel. The FCCG also ensures that all Florida 888-ADMIT-IT helpline specialists complete suicide prevention training both annually and prior to responding to their first contacts on the helpline.