By Sasha C. Russell, Communications Specialist, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling
According to the National Council on Compulsive Gambling (NCPG), it is estimated that one in five people experiencing problems with gambling attempt suicide. This is about twice the rate of suicides as reported with other addictions.
When looking at suicide, it is important to not only note psychological factors that might lead a person to the decision of taking his or her own life, but to look at outside factors. In 1897, famous Sociologist, Emile Durkheim, released his study about suicide and its relation to society in his book: Suicide. Durkheim’s research found that how connected and integrated into society that one feels directly correlates with thoughts of suicide ideation. In other words, the more alienated a person feels from family, friends, or even society as a whole, the more likely they are to attempt suicide.
Recently, Council staff members attended a training by Samaritans of Boston, an organization whose mission is to, “Reduce the incidence of suicide by alleviating despair, isolation, distress and suicidal feelings among individuals in our community, 24 hours a day; to educate the public about suicide prevention; and to reduce the stigma associated with suicide. We accomplish this through services that emphasize confidential, nonjudgmental, and compassionate listening.”
During the training, we learned that not much has changed since Durkheim’s original study in terms of who is at risk for attempting suicide or for having suicidal thoughts. In fact, there are 4 male deaths for every female death, however, there are 3 female attempts for every male attempt. A reason why males are at higher risk for completing suicide attempts goes back to Durkheim’s findings about the relationship between a person and society. As any introductory sociological text would explain, when children are socialized into the world, many times specific gender roles are placed upon them. These roles include females being expected to be more reliant on others around them, as well as to be compassionate caretakers and having strong connections to family, friends, and the community around them. Males, on the other hand, are often times expected to be strong and independent – to ignore and hide feelings that might not be seen as “manly” – leaving many males to feel disconnected from society around them as they try to keep pushing ahead in life.
These societal factors do not take away from the fact that, according to Samaritans, 90% of people who commit suicide have diagnosable psychiatric disorders, most often mood disorders. Still, whether or not someone gets help or support for whichever disorders they are dealing with can depend on these outside, societal influences.
As mentioned above, the NCPG estimates that one in five people experiencing problems with gambling attempts suicide. According to past research1 by Co-Investigator of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) research team, Dr. Rachel Volberg, “Suicide attempts among pathological gamblers are higher than for any of the addictions and second only to suicide attempt rates among individuals with major affective disorders, schizophrenia, and a few major hereditary disorders.”
As the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) points out, “Up to half of individuals in treatment for gambling disorder have suicidal ideation, and about 17% have attempted suicide.”
Should you or someone you know be experiencing problems with gambling, you can:
- call our 24/7 Helpline: 800.426.1234
- chat with us 24/7 online by clicking here
If you are having thoughts of suicide, Samaritans of Boston can help:
- call the 24/7 Samaritans Statewide Helpline: 877.870.4673
- college students and others over the age of 18 can access online emotional support between Monday through Friday evenings from 6pm to 10pm here
- Lifeline Crisis Chat is a service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in partnership with CONTACT USA and can be accessed between 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) here
- teens please call: 800-252-8336
- teens can access online emotional support through the Samaritan’s IM Hear Program, Monday – Thursday nights, from 6pm to 9pm at IMHear.org
- Crisis Text Line – is available 24/7 to young people ages 13-25
Hope is not lost for people who are experiencing problems with gambling, nor for those who are dealing with suicidal thoughts.
Here are a few recent news articles from around the world about gambling and suicide:
- Exposing the Links between Gambling and Suicide
- Coroner’s Figure Links Suicides to Problem Gambling
- Gambling Can Spiral Out of Control
- Poverty, Homelessness and a Suicide Attempt: Mother and Daughter Tell Tale of Gambling Addiction
1 Eric Newhouse, “Problem players a growing trend, experts contend,” Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, MT), 31 July 2002, p. 1A.