A local mental health organisation is providing free counselling for people with gambling addictions. The service is available seven days a week and will also operate out of hours.
Helplink Mental Health, a registered charity, which already provides counselling in the west of Ireland, nationally, and internationally joined forces with the Gambling Awareness Trust to provide the service.
It is aimed at people over 16 years of age and was officially launched in Galway by the Mayor of Galway city Cllr Mike Cubbard recently.
Lochlann Scott, the CEO of Helplink, said being in a position to provide this service was a major development for his organisation. "In addition to our national general, youth, and couples counselling services, available online at low costs, we also provide an addiction counselling service nationally.
"However it wasn't until we partnered with the Gambling Awareness Trust that we were able to start providing gambling addiction counselling for free. This is huge for us and our clients because of our main aims is take down barriers for engaging with counselling - finance is one of those barriers."
Lack of accessible services are often another barrier, he stated. "Helplink overcomes this by by providing our services seven days a week and out-of-hours and also providing these services online so people can get their support at home or in other private settings."
He outlined that research indicates that from 30 to 35 per cent of the gambling industry's revenue comes from people who have gambling issues. Furthermore, online gambling makes it difficult to monitor the behavioural activities of loved ones. Mr Scott pointed out that Paddy Power bookmakers reported that 77 per cent of its profits comes from the online side of the industry.
"Helplink's vision is to be Ireland's leading provider of accessible, free, or low-cost mental health services locally in the west of Ireland, nationally, and internationally. We provide a free online counselling service to Irish people living abroad and returning home from living abroad. The three types of services that Helplink provides are: counselling, information provision, and education."
Helplink appointment opening hours, for this and its other counselling services, are from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 12 to 6pm Saturday and Sunday (closed on bank holidays and Christmas/New Year's Eve ).
"The service is available online (like Skype but more secure ) or by telephone nationwide. We can be contacted by emailing [email protected] or by telephoning 0818 998880 to arrange an appointment or receive information."
Helplink must have written permission (by email ) from the parents or guardians of those aged 16 to 18 years before appointments can be arranged. Each client is assigned a minimum of six free appointments in a 12 month period. If a counsellor believes people may need additional sessions they can given a further three or six free appointments.