My name is Sara Hungerford and I am the Outreach Coordinator for the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling. I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and to give you some information regarding our program and what we can offer to health teachers in the state.
According to research, adolescents ages 12-19 are a high-risk group to becoming problem gamblers. If a student entered the classroom under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you would likely be able to know something was wrong. If a student just lost a bet, you would likely have no idea. That’s the power of a hidden addiction.
Approximately 4-5% of youth, ages 12-17, meet one or more criteria of having a gambling problem. Another 10-14% are at risk of developing an addiction, which means that they already show signs of losing control over their gambling behavior. Studies also show that 78% of problem gamblers contemplate suicide and 65% commit crimes to finance their gambling.
Even though the majority of students will not become problem gamblers, knowing the warning signs will help them make good choices and provide support to friends and family as they enter their teen and adult years. Young people like to take risks and are vulnerable to peer pressure. They tend to overestimate the short-term payoff and dismiss the long-term consequences. These are dangerous behaviors as it relates to gambling.
Today, those who work with youth have an opportunity to look for the presence of problem gambling behaviors in students with whom they work. You are in a direct position to detect adolescents in the early stages of difficulty and refer students to resources that can help. One of the challenges will be identifying the warning signs.
The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling would like to offer your school, classroom, or parent organization a presentation on gambling disorders, absolutely free, with no strings attached. Our presentations are interactive and educational; they can be tailored to meet the needs/demographics of any audience. For additional information or to schedule a date, please call 920-437-8888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.