Mr Christopher de Souza
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development
(a) what is the number of problem gambling cases recorded by the National Council on Problem Gambling in the last three years;
(b) what kind of counselling sessions are utilised to help these problem gamblers break out of the vicious cycle of gambling; and
(c) what role do family members and the community play as points of support to help these individuals overcome their gambling problem.
Mdm Speaker, problem gamblers and families who face such issues can seek help at two key service points – primarily the Thye Hua Kwan Problem Gambling Recovery Centre and the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) which is located at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). The former treats the less serious cases, while NAMS also treats the more severe pathological gamblers. In addition, there are other private and non-funded community and religious organisations that offer similar services as well.
Between 2012 and 2014, Thye Hua Kwan and NAMS saw a combined 2,700 cases. This is about 60% more, in absolute numbers, 1,000 cases more than that between 2009 and 2011. We have looked at the increase and it is, primarily, due to greater public education efforts, which we have stepped up significantly which have raised awareness on problem gambling and encouraged help-seeking behaviour. It is important for people to step forward both as individuals, and for their families and loved ones to step forward to highlight those issues. We are encouraged that people are coming forward.
The treatment plan for each problem gambler varies; it really depends on the severity of addiction. It usually involves a combination of counselling and different types of therapy, conducted on an individual or group basis. Psychiatric services may be extended for the more severe pathological gamblers. Financial and legal counselling services, where necessary, are also extended to help the problem gambler and his family cope. Recovering patients are encouraged to join support groups for longer term support.
Tackling the complex issue of problem gambling requires the combined efforts of personal responsibility, family involvement, community involvement and Government support. The family is often in the best position to detect signs of problem gambling in their loved ones, encourage them to seek help, and also support during treatment. Studies have shown that treatment works best if the problem gambler is accompanied by family members. The community also plays an important part in helping affected families access relevant information, resources and services. For example, more Family Service Centres have stepped up efforts to train their counsellors and social workers to provide the first line of counselling and assistance when families present problem gambling issues.