ABSG Progress Report on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms – Year Two
3 - Suicide and gambling
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Progress by government agencies on prioritising data collection and actions to address gambling-related suicide has been disappointing. There has been no progress on commissioning the psychological autopsy study, and no steps to include gambling disorder in the coronial codes or to mandate training on gambling-related suicides amongst coroners78. It has become clear that some of these will only be realised through changes in legislation and concerted action by health professionals and coroners79. However, the forthcoming PHE Evidence review (expected in the summer of 2021) will provide new evidence80, drawing on a wider range of data sources. We hope that this will provide the impetus for further action by government agencies and third sector organisations. The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCIH) is an established centre for the collection of information on all suicides in the UK81. Although the NCIH has reduced suicide rates, there is currently no link between the NCISH and organisations involved in delivering services to those harmed by gambling and their families.
NHS Digital have begun work on the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) for 2022 and there are indications that gambling might be re-introduced into the survey82. The House of Lords Committee Report highlighted the importance of action on this issue and its notable absence from the 2014 APMS survey83. The APMS 2022 is an important opportunity to understand this issue in more detail and to look at the impact of online gambling since 2007. We note however, sufficient evidence already exists to demonstrate the need for action on this specific area of gambling harms as an urgent priority.
Despite the lack of progress on new data collection and awareness raising with coroners, the critical importance of the work required to address gambling- related suicide and suicide ideation remains.
Recently published analysis of the existing APMS 2007 dataset provided new insights into the links between gambling and suicide, highlighting high levels of suicide ideation among problem gamblers84.
In Scotland, the Strategy Implementation Group is working with Scottish Government, local authorities and health boards to raise awareness and ensure that gambling is recognised in the Scotland-wide Suicide Prevention Strategy, putting people at the centre, and looking to reduce stigma and develop metrics85.
A programme of work to learn from Gambling with Lives to utilise lived experience of gambling related suicide to raise public and professional awareness and inform the development of gambling and suicide prevention work across Great Britain86.
These initiatives are welcome, but insufficient to achieve the priority focus that this issue requires. Campaigns to reduce gambling-related suicides led by those with lived experience in collaboration with others have emphasised the need for: clear resourcing for population level awareness raising; clear messages about gambling harms; more research on specific gambling products and their association with harm, strategies to address the stigma associated with gambling and adequate resources for peer support networks; and adequate access to help for individuals and their families. We continue to recommend the inclusion of gambling harms in the National Suicide Prevention Strategies for England87 and Wales88.
79 To place a requirement on coroners to record gambling disorder.
80 Gambling-related harms evidence review: scope (opens in new tab), Public Health England, April 2020
81 National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (opens in new tab), University of Manchester
82 Problem gambling and suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm in England: evidence from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 (PDF) (opens in new tab), Wardle et al, GambleAware, May 2019
84 Problem gambling and suicidality in England: secondary analysis of a representative cross-sectional survey (opens in new tab), Wardle et al, Public health 184, July 2020
85 Mental health, Suicide (opens in new tab), Scottish Government
86 Gambling with Lives (opens in new tab) - website
87 Suicide prevention strategy for England (opens in new tab), Department for Health and Social Care, 2012
88 Suicide and self-harm prevention strategy 2015 to 2022 (opens in new tab), Welsh Government
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Improved profile of gambling harms as a public health issue
Last updated: 15 June 2023
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