Time to End the Stigma Attached to Gambling Problems

Sometimes when you have a problem, that’s just the beginning of your difficulties. Stigma is an issue that needs to be dealt with, whether it’s being HIV positive or having a gambling addiction.

Stigma is an additional problem that is so unwanted. It causes those with a problem to keep it to themselves and that often sees the problem escalate. Michelle Evans is the Communications Officer of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) in Scotland. Her desire is to see the stigma attached to gambling addictions being stopped and replaced with extensive support for the vulnerable.

Evans is also one of the founding members of the EPIC Risk Management Pro Sport Advisory Board. This is the first panel in the world that has the task of investigating and acting on the gambling harm of not just professional sports stars but also eSport players.

EPIC Risk Management employ several current and former players who act as facilitators in their training programmes held around the globe. These have the aim of making players more aware of the problems of gambling addiction.

Evans said that she first became aware of EPIC when former rugby union player Mark Potter was invited to give talks to Scottish football clubs. He’s had problems with his gambling, and it got to the stage where suicide was considered.

Recalling those talks she said: “I have never seen a group of boys so quiet; you could have heard a pin drop in that room it was so silent when Mark was telling his story about how he got involved in gambling and how it took over his life.”

Previously, Evans has been a sports journalist and press officer for Partick Thistle. Her belief is that “gambling and addiction is a more of a taboo subject than maybe talking about your mental health.” Evans added: “It’s such a hidden thing and there’s a lot of pride and a lot of embarrassment around it.” There is a need to talk more about the subject. If that is the case it will “make people realise that a lot of people fall into that trap the better it is and hopefully more people come forward and get help.”

The advisory board consists of many leading names from gambling industry leaders, eSports experts and organisations who represent professional sports players. They will hold meetings to share best practice, highlight any concerns they may have and create policies. This will be achieved through their own experiences in areas such as integrity and athlete welfare.

Evans believes that the lived experience that members of EPIC have is important. “I think people talking about their experiences will help,” she said. “Maybe if different sports can share experience of what they know from within their sport, how they can support their athletes – I think that’s going to be a fantastic thing,” added the PFA Scotland Communications Officer.