"The key message is you don't have to have hit rock bottom to have a problem with gambling and if it's not fun anymore, put your hand up and ask for help.”
This is the message former NRL player turned commentator Nathan Hindmarsh gave to an audience at Taree TAFE campus on May 17 as part of his awareness camapaign for the warning signs of gambling addiction.
The retired Eels enforcer discussed how he battled gambling addiction throughout his NRL career and what steps can be taken to seek help.
Mr Hindmarsh said he is driven to be a positive influence for those with a gambling problem.
"If someone in the audience is going through a tough time in regards to gambling, hopefully I can give them the courage to go and seek some help,” Mr Hindmarsh said.
Several members of the audience told Mr Hindmarsh how his story resonated with them.
The event was organised by TAFE in conjunction with Samaritans Gambling Help and Mid North Coast Financial Counselling Service.
Samaritans Gambling Help counselor Steve Edman said Mr Hindmarsh’s story is relatable to others with a similar issue.
"Gambling behaviour, when it is a problem, attaches a stigma to it so people find it difficult to talk about that and so when a person like Nathan is able to share his story, people can relate to that.
"The message from Nathan is if you do have a problem seek help, it is okay to talk about it. People will listen and walk beside you to address that issue.
"To see him here is a testimony to his popularity and a terrific role model that he is,” Mr Edman said.
Mr Hindmarsh also spoke about the impact his addiction had on his family.
Mid North Coast Financial Counselling Services counselor Pauline Smith has worked with the families of people with gambling addiction and said it is important to highlight the role they play.
"Somebody has to make changes and if the person with the gambling problem can't actually do it all themselves, then the family becomes involved and they might then take on a role they previously haven't had,” Ms Smith said.
Mr Hindmarsh spoke with senior students at Gloucester High School beforehand.
People who are seeking help with gambling addiction are urged to call 1800 858 858 or visit http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/