It doesn’t feel right, to be writing about this in a blog. But some things need to be said, whether you want to broach the subject or not.
A coroner’s report out of South Australia today identified poker machine problem gambling as the driving reason behind the suicide of Katherine Natt, single mother of two, in 2006. Katherine overdosed on paracetamol and neurofen, after racking up debts totalling $100,000 on the pokies.
This a truly tragic story. There can be no doubt that Katherine’s gambling problems drove her to take her own life; the note she left behind confirmed it. This wasn’t selfishness or irresponsibility; this was an avoidable tragedy. And no one will be more brutalised by the repercussions of her actions, both in life and in death, than her two young children who will now grow up as orphans.
I’m not going to delve into all of the details of this story. It’s been covered already in the press. However, there are a few points that should be made.
The links between problem gambling, depression and suicide have been well documented. Katherine’s story is not an isolated one; problem gambling help centres tell of how as many as one in five calls from suicidal people come from gambling addicts. But still pokie gambling is seen as a harmless form of entertainment, with only the irresponsible few falling victim to addiction.
What other recreational activity has the potential to cause so much harm, yet is so fiercely protected and championed? What other form of entertainment comes with the warning that it is addictive, and that you cannot win? And what other of society’s victims are so widely misunderstood and reviled?
Gambling addicts should not be viewed as minor collateral damage, just so everyone else can chase jackpots. It’s an obscene state of affairs, and an indictment on our society.