Gambling is like Marmite – it’s something that divides people. Many think it should be banned completely, others think it should be legalised and regulated. And still, others think that it should be available in a controlled environment like a casino. Whatever your view, it’s important to understand the risks and rewards of gambling. And if you do decide to gamble, make sure that you budget it as an expense and not as a way of making money. If you think you’re at risk of problem gambling, get in touch with StepChange for free debt advice.

The definition of gambling is placing a value on an event that is at least partly determined by chance. This could be a sporting event, the outcome of a lottery ticket or simply tossing a coin. Although gambling is a popular pastime, it can be harmful to your mental health. Those with mental health issues are more at risk of harmful gambling and may use it as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or as a distraction. Gambling can also lead to financial problems and there’s a strong link between gambling and thoughts of suicide. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit your local A&E immediately.

Research is needed to better understand the causes of gambling disorder and develop more effective treatments. However, longitudinal studies are difficult to carry out because of the massive funding required and the difficulty of maintaining a research team for a long period of time. These difficulties can confound aging and period effects, which makes it challenging to determine causality.

In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, and it was classified under impulse-control disorders, alongside kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). But this year, in what was widely seen as a milestone decision, the American Psychiatric Association moved it to the addictions chapter of the DSM, with its own subheading for “gambling disorder”.

This shift shows that we are becoming more sophisticated in our understanding of how gambling works. But it’s also vital that we do everything we can to ensure that gambling is a safe and fun pastime for everyone. If it’s not, we put society at risk of harm, and that includes vulnerable people like Shirley.

For more information on responsible gambling, visit the Responsible Gambling Council website. The RGC is a non-profit organisation that promotes safer gambling standards in Canada and around the world. They work to protect consumers, educate the public and influence government policy to support responsible gambling. They provide a national voice for responsible gambling and promote awareness of the risks involved. They also provide information and support for those affected by problem gambling. They also work with industry partners to promote responsible gambling. They are supported by the National Council on Problem Gambling and funded by the Canadian Foundation for Responsible Gambling. They are a registered charity in Canada.