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The Best Ways to Address Negative Stereotypes in Gambling

Stereotypes are widely held but often oversimplified, images or ideas of a group or particular person, and are usually damaging and inaccurate. There are ways we can avoid the trap of negative stereotyping or stigmatizing, including labeling those who have a problem with gambling. According to Lori Rugle, Ph.D., ICGC-II, BACC, a keynote speaker at the 2020 National Council on Problem Gambling Conference, ending stigma starts by addressing the stereotypes and practicing compassion.

Dr. Rugle started her keynote address with a story about a colleague who expressed how frustrated she was with one of her clients who was struggling with a problem with gambling. That conversation reminded Dr. Rugle that there are still many stigmas associated with gambling, not just from the public but also from mental health professionals. This knowledge gap can lead to a lack of empathy and compassion for people struggling with problem gambling.

People who gamble may be coping with life’s stressors the best way they know how. They may believe that gambling will help solve financial woes. Some people, like older adults, may be lonely or in pain, and those feelings go away while they are gambling.

With this knowledge in hand, we can all work to recognize how we stereotype people and learn to value one another despite differences. Below are three tips Dr. Rugle recommends that can help to break stigmas.

  1. Use person-first language.

Using person-first language (“someone who struggles with problem gambling,” rather than “problem gambler”) is an important first step. This helps people realize that they are a person, not a problem. 

  1. Honor and value differences.

By welcoming diverse voices and perspectives and learning from their personal experiences, we recognize our own ignorance and faulty assumptions about people. Another way to practice this is never to assume you know someone’s full story. 

  1. Practice fierce kindness. 

How kind we are with ourselves impacts how we treat other people. Ask yourself: “How would I want to be treated?” when you’re about to stereotype an individual. If the words would be hurtful to you, avoid saying them about another person.

If you think you or someone you know struggles with gambling, know you are not alone. You can access free, confidential support any time of day by calling 1-800-589-9966 or texting 4HOPE to 741741. Learn more at BeforeYouBet.org/get-help/

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