Q & A with ConnexOntario about mental health and problem gambling supports

Kahfeel Buchanan
Kahfeel Buchanan
Sports Betting News
News - Esports
Q & A with ConnexOntario about mental health and problem gambling supports

May is mental health awareness month. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “gambling-related harms such as financial loss, mental health issues, substance use, and suicide ideation, can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on the individual and their family.” CMHA claims people faced with mental health issues are “at an increased risk of harm from gambling.”

We spoke with Anne Counter, ConnexOntario’s director of system navigation and information services, to find out how people who are navigating mental health problems related to sports betting and problem gamblers can get help. According to a Forbes article, some legislators in the United States feel “1-800 hotlines and self-imposed breaks that sportsbook operators allow users to trigger are not enough to detect to deter irresponsible gambling.”

Quick Take

  • ConnexOntario claims to have 156 problem gambling treatment programs in their database
  • Community organizations are offering problem gambling treatment
  • One approach may not be more effective than another, depends on the individual

When it comes to any mental health problems resulting from sports betting, what kind of help can people get outside of helplines and mental health organizations?

The problem gambling treatment services are more under the addiction system, they aren’t under the mental health system. There are community organizations that are offering problem gambling treatment. There are self-help options such as Gamblers Anonymous, I’m talking in general for any problem gambling issue, not specifically sports betting. There are treatment programs available as well as self-help. With sports betting in particular, most of them have within the app responsible gambling programs where people can set their betting limits and time-outs. There are more self-management tools on the sports betting sites and the apps.

Out of the options you gave, what do you think is the most effective?

I can’t answer that. I think it’s a very individual choice. It's what fits for the person and the situation that they are in. If using the self-monitoring tools on the websites and betting apps is enough for a person to manage their gambling behaviour, that might be enough for them. Other people benefit more from a more ongoing counselling kind of help, so it really depends on the individual as to what’s going to be the most successful for them, not that one approach is more effective than the other.

Is there a way for people to handle this in their homes without outside influence that you know of?

There are people trying to or successfully managing problematic behaviour without formal assistance. Some people can, and other people can’t. Again, it comes down to the individual. Part of what we do here is let people know what options are available so they can choose what fits for them. It’s not a matter of recommending one or another. We can’t offer information for someone who doesn’t want any kind of help or intervention.

How can people who are looking for this type of help be confident that the solutions that are being offered to them from places such as ConnexOntario do work?

As we have seen in therapy, especially for the Indigenous community, tradition therapy methods in Canada have not worked for them. Some from the community have said it has set them back rather than help. How can people be confident that your services will help?

We’re not the clinical end of things, but the services that we’re referring to are the funded services under the Ministry of Health. They are the official and vetted programs. In terms of Indigenous, you’re absolutely right. For addictions in general, it’s absolutely recognized that the approach used with non-Indigenous is not always beneficial. A lot of the Indigenous programs take a much more holistic view to helping people and treat the whole person and all the issues that the person is dealing with. That’s likely to be much more beneficial for Indigenous people for sure.

People should be confident because these are the government funded services?

These are the funded treatment services within the addiction treatment system, and they’re accountable to the Ministry of Health. They’re not private, unregulated programs.

How many problem gambling treatment services does ConnexOntario have in its database?

In our database we have 156 problem gambling treatment programs (community/outpatient) programs, and four residential problem gambling programs. 

ConnexOntario is a government funded program that provides “free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling by connecting them with services in their area.”