Gambling Awareness Project Sheffield

Talking to a young person about gambling-related harm and mental health

Whether you're regularly checking in, or you're worried about a young person, this information will guide you through talking to them about gambling-related harm and their mental health.


Understanding Gambling-related harm

Gambling involves taking a risk on something in order to gain a better outcome. Traditionally gambling encompasses risking money in a hope to win more money. In 2022 the gambling commission found that 50% of young people have gambled in the last 12 months. Though, gambling can be considered a form a social entertainment it can have a damaging impact on a young person’s mental and physical wellbeing and heath. The Gambling Commission have estimated that 55,000 11–16 year olds experience gambling-related harm due to their gambling behaviours, with another 85,000 at risk to developing harms. While a further 1.4 million adults in the UK also experience harm due to their gambling behaviours. 

Signs a young person might be experiencing gambling-related harm

  • Money worries / borrowing money off family and friends
  • Increased interest in sports results
  • Lying about gambling or hiding it
  • Spending a lot of money on online transactions
  • Crime
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of sleep or struggling to fall asleep
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Spending less time with family and friends
  • Thoughts of suicide / self-harm
  • Missing school, college or work commitments
  • Losing interest in usual hobbies
  • Change in personality


Understanding mental health and wellbeing

While we all experience things differently, it helps to have a general understanding of these terms:

Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. Our mental health is on a spectrum and can range from good to poor.

Mental wellbeing is about how we're feeling right now, and how well we can cope with daily life. Our wellbeing can change from moment to moment, day to day, or month to month.

Our mental health and wellbeing can change all the time. Because of this, it can help to check in regularly and make time for young people to talk about how they're feeling. You don't have to wait until they're struggling.

Some young people may use gambling as a way to deal with poor mental health. If gambling starts to impact a young person’s life negatively it’s also likely that they will experience poor mental health due to this.

Gambling-related harms such as problems with relationships and money worries can also increase a young persons chances of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

If experiencing gambling-related harm a young person may also be more likely to experience low self esteem, feelings of loneliness, guilt and shame.

The hardest step while struggling with mental health and gambling-related harm is being able to talk about it. But it's a good and rewarding thing to do, and it takes the stigma away from it. 


Signs a young person might be experiencing poor mental health


  • Seeming distant, or not themselves
  • Not meeting up with friends or partners
  • Spending more time alone than usual
  • Not chatting, smiling or laughing as much
  • Talking about feelings that worry you
  • Losing interest in or not doing activities they normally love
  • Crying, shouting
  • Being restless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs when they didn't before
  • Using social media in a different way, or more or less than before
  • Some of the physical changes you might notice include:
  • Not dressing with as much care as they used to
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Looking tired
  • Not washing or taking care of themselves like they used to
  • Repetitive behaviour, like tapping or checking things a lot


It can be difficult to pick up on signs, especially if you don't live with them or spend lots of time with them. Some young people might also ‘hide’ signs they're struggling, which is why it helps to know how to talk openly with them about mental health.


Just because they don't show any signs, it doesn't mean you shouldn't check in with them.


How to start a conversation

If you're worried about speaking to a young person about their mental health and wellbeing, it can help to feel prepared. You don't need to have a long conversation every time, you might just want to check in to see what they are doing and how they're feeling.


Take a look at the advice below, especially if it's your first time talking to them:

  • Try to find a time and place that suits you both. The time may never feel perfect, but it can help if you both feel calm and comfortable. This could mean talking in a quiet place, or it could mean doing an activity together.
  • It can help to practise what you want to say. You could practise in your head or aloud with someone you know.
  • There's no perfect way to begin a conversation. However you choose to do it, try your best to start in a calm and open-minded way. You might not understand exactly what they're going through, and that's okay.
  • Try not to feel disheartened at your first attempt. They might not respond well the first time, or might not want to engage at all. You can try again at a different time when they're ready.
  • Give them the space they need. Pressuring them to talk can push them away. Let them know you're there for them and let them come to you. It's important to respect their boundaries – there are some things they might not want to share or talk about with you.


What feels like the best way of talking?

The first thing to consider is what feels best for them – ask them what they'd find most comfortable. It's always better to ask than assume you know what they need. You might want to talk face-to face, but if either of you find this difficult or overwhelming you could:

  • Talk on the phone
  • Send a text
  • Write a letter
  • Talk while walking or driving
  • Talk during an activity together, like cooking, playing a game, or watching TV
  • Remember to take breaks or set up regular talking times – it doesn't have to be one long conversation.

I've always found just being present with them, giving them the attention they need, and doing an activity together allows them to open up and relax. I can be myself around them and not focus heavily on the conversation being about their mental health.


What could I say to begin with?

If you're feeling nervous about talking to them, you might feel more confident knowing how you could start the conversation.


You might have already noticed some signs of gambling-related harm. You could consider phrases like:

“This might be difficult for us to talk about, but I'd like to talk to you about something.”

“I noticed you've been feeling ___ lately. I wondered if you wanted to talk about it?”

“You've not seemed yourself in the past couple of weeks. Is there anything you want to talk about?”

“I thought you were acting a little differently recently. I know you might feel like you can't talk to me, but I can help you find people you can contact if you want to talk about ___.”


You might be checking in regularly with them, even when things seem to be going well. You could consider phrases like:

“How are things going at school/college/training?”

“If you ever need to talk to anyone, you know that I'm here for you?”

“It seems like you're feeling okay about ___, but you can always talk to me if you want to.”

“You seem really happy about ___! I'd love to hear more about it.”

“I remember you told me that you were upset about ___ last week. How are you feeling about it now?”

What could I say after we've talked?


Whether it's the first time you've spoken or it's a regular chat, there are different ways you can end a conversation and things you can do afterwards:

Reassure them that you're still there for them.

Tell them that you'll be there to support them.

Ask how you can help them and what they would like from you.

Ask if they want your help getting support from someone else, like a teacher or doctor.

Do something afterwards together that you both enjoy.

Be patient if they feel upset or if the chat doesn't end calmly.

Remind them that there is help and you will get through it together.

Remember that you can also finish by pausing to take a break. You might both need some time to reflect, but could pick up the conversation again later.


How to be a good listener

One of the best things you can do is listen to the young person you want to support. To show that you're listening, you can:

  • Give them your full attention. Make sure you won't be distracted, for example by turning off your phone notifications. You could do an activity with them while you speak, as long as you're doing it together – it shouldn't be something one-sided.
  • Try to show you're open and not judgemental. Relax your body with positive body language, for example uncrossing your arms or sitting at the same level as them.
  • Allow them to talk when they want to. You shouldn't feel like you have to talk when they're silent. Let them pause or give long explanations if they need to.
  • Try to stop yourself from talking too much. Let them speak or ask open questions to let them explain. For example, you might say “what's that like for you?”.
  • Repeat some parts aloud. After they tell you something, repeating it back can help you check you understand what they mean. It also helps to show them that you're listening.
  • Remember that you don't need to fix problems immediately. They may just need to speak about how they're feeling right now.
  • It can take time to figure out the best ways to talk to each other. There is no perfect time or way to talk – you're trying the best you can.
  • It can be hard if a young person doesn't want to talk, or if they change their mind about talking. It isn't your fault if they don't want to talk and you're not doing anything wrong.
  • They might feel more comfortable talking to or getting support from someone else. Or it could be that they don't feel ready to talk.


Other ways to offer support

There are many ways you can help, but the best thing you can do is ask them what they want. Different people will want support in different ways, at different times. You could:

  • Help them with practical things, like making doctor's appointments or attending peer support sessions.
  • Encourage them to do things they enjoy, like watching a film or doing sport.
  • Offer support for stressful things, like schoolwork and exams.
  • Check up on their physical health, like making sure they're eating well and sleeping enough.
  • Support their ability to help themselves, which can also improve their confidence. 


GAPS 1:1 Support at Sheffield Mind 

GAPS at Sheffield Mind now offer 1-2-1 appointments for young people aged 11-25 who may be at risk of developing, or already experiencing gambling-related harms. The appointments are available online, via telephone or face to face and give young people the opportunity to share any difficulties they are experiencing and find out where they can get help. We will work with you at your own pace to achieve personal goals, and offer support to prevent and reduce gambling-related harms. If you would like to book an appointment with one of the team please contact us at [email protected] or by telephone 0114 258 4489. 

GAPS club at Sheffield Mind 

Here at Sheffield Mind we run the GAPS club for young people aged 16-25 who are at risk of developing, or already having, gambling related issues. The GAPS club has been designed for young people who are at risk of developing, or already having, gambling related harms and to use their own experiences to help each other. You can find out more information about GAPS Club on "Our Services" page. 

Promote Self Exclusion 

If someone is struggling with gambling-related harm one thing they can do is to self-exclude from gambling. This is when you exclude yourself from being able to go into a bookmakers or block yourself from accessing gambling websites online. You can also find more information on how to self-exclude on our signposting pages. 

Other helpful organisations 

There are various organisations which provide confidential support, peer support and therapy for people experiencing gambling-related harms. You can find a list of helpful organisations here which can help.

If you are worried about someone aged 11-25 and would like to speak to a member of the team please email [email protected]. A list of other helpful organisations can be also be found on our signposting pages.