Preventing and treating problem gamblers: The first Italian National Helpline

Abstract

Gambling has become a public health issue, implying not just the suffering of problems by an individual and their families, but also involving economic and social costs. As already recognized by many authors, it is important to provide opportunities for differentiated preventions and treatments, not only as to methods, types of care, and counselling, but also in regard to settings, availability in time, and means of access. Acknowledging these findings, the first Italian National Helpline for Problem Gambling was established in October 2009. Out of concern for severe adverse psychosocial consequences and prevalence rates of problem gambling, the Italian Federation of Workers of the Departments and Services Addiction (FeDerSerD) initiated and then managed the gambling helpline and website service Giocaresponsabile financially supported by gambling operators. This service offers remote access to counselling and therapy in order to help treat problem gamblers who do not typically seek help from other addiction services. Compared to traditional therapeutic settings, this online approach presents several advantages: accessibility, anonymity, treatment flexibility, less time constraints, no geographical barriers, and public health cost reduction. The Italian experience shows that the financial support given by various gambling operators provides valuable services to those affected by problem gambling and that other gambling companies operating in other jurisdictions should financially support such initiatives given the benefits that such services bring to both problem gamblers and their families. This paper is an overview of the first five years of Giocaresponsabile activity.

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