The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is planning a symposium on the risks of problem gambling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The department has released the following:
After almost a full year of Michigan’s fight against COVID-19 and its impact on the mental health of Michigan residents, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is hosting the 13th annual Problem Gambling Symposium virtually on March 4 and 5.
In light of the stress caused by COVID-19, residents may be at an increased risk of developing behaviors that could lead to or exacerbate a problem gambling disorder. As residents seek out ways to connect with others during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of social distancing may leave many with idle time, frustrations, and anxiety.
“As residents seek out alternate ways to connect with each other and manage the stress of the pandemic, we are keenly aware of the increased risk for a problem gambling disorder to develop,” said Alia Lucas, Gambling Disorder Program Manager with MDHHS. “This year, more than ever, we encourage all residents – health care providers, parents, family and friends concerned about a loved ones’ health – to tune into the symposium to learn about the signs and steps they can take to help someone struggling with a gambling disorder.”
There is no fee to attend the virtual symposium; however, registration is required, and attendee registration ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26. The symposium will address how the pandemic has changed the face of gambling, the impact made to gambling disorder within the youth and veteran communities, the implications of sports betting and online gambling and responsible gambling.
While social gambling isn’t a problem for most, for some, it provides a sense of control and escape which, over time, can affect other areas of life. For youth, this risk is especially concerning with the rise of online gaming and virtual connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate of problem gambling among high school students is twice that of adults, and someone gambling by age 12 will be four times more likely to develop a gambling addiction.
Additionally, for many, job-related stress, retirement or the work environment can create a culture of gambling that leads to a problem gambling disorder in personal life. Military veterans have been shown to have an increase in gambling disorders once returning from active service. Compared to the estimated 2-5% of the general population that struggles with problem gambling, that number jumps to up to 10% of military veterans due to their risk factors and co-occurring disorders.
If you suspect that you or someone you love may be struggling with a gambling disorder, the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline, 800-270-7117, is open for crisis intervention and referral to treatment. Trained and experienced counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide immediate help to address issues related to gambling disorder, including screening services and referrals to treatment or support groups.
To learn more about problem gambling in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/ProblemGambling.