When it comes to addiction and recovery it is well demonstrated and documented that having meaningful involvement from those with lived experience is crucial at all levels of any service delivery. As the Project Coordinator, with this in mind, based not only on research findings but also my own personal experiences of harmful gambling as an 'Affected Other', I felt that it was pertinent to have as much lived experience of gambling harms within the project as possible. However, that said, I also knew I may have a challenge on my hands to be able to reach out and engage with those in recovery from a gambling addiction on a local scale.
Gambling is known to be a hidden addiction due to the fact that there are no physical signs and symptoms that are visible to those around, we also have the added concept of money, finances and debts – as a nation we are very proud when it comes to financial difficulties and generally speaking, we don’t openly talk about it. So, when you combine this notion of gambling, addiction and money, it is hidden and supressed even further as there is so much stigma associated and attached to gambling harms and the collateral impact.
So how do we break down this barrier of stigma, shame and embarrassment; and encourage those who have experienced gambling harms to come forward, engage with Time Out and utilise their lived experience? Well, WE START THE CONVERSATION! And that is exactly what I have been doing as the project coordinator.
From starting the conversation around gambling harms, talking openly and honestly of my own lived experience, publicising the project and our resources, raising awareness of gambling help and support and connecting with local services on a collaborative level - lived experience has been at the core of every discussion. As a result of this, individuals have made contact with myself and engaged to help shape the Time Out project by utilising their lived experience. All individuals have offered their experiences as a local Nottingham resident who have encountered gambling harms, giving feedback on what they need and want from a recovery and aftercare service. Ultimately creating a modular based recovery service that is cyclical, holistic, person centred and peer led; a service that offers continued recovery in the community when it comes to gambling.
What have we done to engage with those who are and have experienced gambling related harms here in Nottingham?
• We have introduced a research-based screening question into the Nottingham Recovery Network at the Wellbeing Hub to identify service users encountering gambling harms and encouraging them to access help and support.
• We have incorporated and established a monthly gambling harms clinic within the Wellbeing Hub in collaboration with the local GamCare practitioner.
• We regularly use social media to reach those with lived experiences.
• We held a 2-day panel event with Expert Citizen’s from Changing Futures, where we explored their lived experienced and discussed Time Out and the aftercare service.
• We have created an advisory panel of likeminded individuals who have experienced gambling harms and are in recovery, having sought treatment and support.
• We held an end of year gambling harms event which summarised our first year of the project and its successes, but that also demonstrated the reality of a gambling addiction and the magnitude of devastation that it can have on an individual and those around them through 3 local individuals who have experienced gambling harms and have turned their lives around.
For a new service in a large city, I feel that the project has so far achieved a lot in just over a year. Those who have engaged with Time Out and offered their lived experience have helped to continue the momentum achieved so far and have highlighted the impact of gambling addiction, but also the need for aftercare and continued recovery in Nottingham and beyond.