Development and evaluation of Mental Health First Aid for gambling problems

April 11, 2018

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference will be held on Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 May with optional workshops on Wednesday 30 May at the QT Gold Coast.

Dr Maria Bellringer, Senior Research Fellow at the Auckland University Of Technology joins us at the Conference to discuss ‘Pain behind the poker face: development and evaluation of Mental Health First Aid for gambling problems’.


Problematic gambling and depression commonly co-exist, with limited research indicating that depression and/or psychological distress appear to reduce with brief interventions for problem gambling. The present study was designed to examine the effect, over 36 months, of a brief problem gambling intervention on depression in a population of people seeking help for gambling issues. One-hundred and thirty-one participants were recruited from adult (18+ years) gambler callers to the New Zealand national gambling helpline. They received a manualised version of the helpline’s brief intervention, and were assessed at baseline, 12 and 36 months.

Overall, problem gambling severity reduced from a score of 17 at baseline (using the Problem Gambling Severity Index) to a score of 7.5 at 36 months. The percentage of participants with depression reduced from 74% at baseline to 41% at 36 months. For both problem gambling and depression, the greatest reduction was in the first 12 months. Multiple logistic regression analyses at baseline showed an association between problem gambling and depression. Repeated measures logistic regression indicated that reduced problem gambling severity reduced depression and that there was no independent time effect taking place (i.e. the decreased depression was not due to natural recovery). Thus a single brief telephone intervention for problem gambling substantially reduced the prevalence of depression. This has clinical and public health implications with a benefit being that people with depression and co-existing gambling problems may not necessarily need additional treatment for depression if they receive treatment for their gambling issues.


Dr Maria Bellringer is a Senior Research Fellow and Associate Director of the Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. She has nearly three decades of research and project management experience including 16 years researching gambling issues. Her varied background includes biochemistry and toxicology, executive management (CEO of a national telephone counselling service) and counselling experience (Rogerian person-centred approach).

For more information on the upcoming 2018 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference please visit the conference website.



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