Aims: This paper reports on the preparedness of pathological gamblers to seek help through a new national toll-free telephone hotline and compares these callers, on some key dimensions, with a representative sample of pathological gamblers living in the community.
Methods: Callers were assessed using standard diagnostic screens. Sociodemographic data and reported symptoms of stress and depression were also recorded. Callers identified as pathological gamblers were compared with their counterparts in a recent nationwide epidemiological survey.
Results: During the first 3 months of operation, 1506 calls were received from 329 callers. Of these 167 were pathological gamblers, 117 were partners or family members and 45 were from various agencies. Pathological gamblers contacting the hotline resembled those from the community survey with respect to gender and age. Maori and Pacific Islanders were underrepresented. Suicidal ideation was reported by over 90% of pathological gambler callers.
Conclusions: The new service provides a means to reach people with serious gambling-related problems and provides information to family members and helping agencies. High reported suicidal ideation was consistent with previous studies showing elevated rates of stress and depression among pathological gamblers. Underutilization by Maori, Pacific Islanders and people with less severe gambling disorders indicates the need to find better ways to engage these groups.