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    Nov 23, 2015

    More seeking addiction help for gambling at IMH centre

    MORE people here are seeking help to break the chains of addiction, especially those who are hoping to quit gambling.

    Last year, the National Addiction Management Service (Nams) at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) treated 1,700 new patients - a 37 per cent jump over the 1,245 new cases seen four years ago in 2010 when Nams was first set up.

    While drug addicts last year formed the largest group of new cases at Nams, at 39 per cent, the sharpest rise was in the number of gamblers seeking help.

    Compared with 2010, the number of new gambling addicts seeking help last year at Nams, Singapore's biggest addiction treatment centre, has doubled to 526. In comparison, new drug cases rose by 27 per cent and new alcohol addicts by 18 per cent for the same period.

    Singapore's two casinos had opened in 2010.

    The overall growth is "encouraging as it indicates an increased willingness to seek help", said IMH vice-chairman of Nams' medical board, Christopher Cheok, at an event at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital yesterday to mark National Addictions Awareness Day.

    He said people are more aware of the platforms, such as helplines, to seek help from, as Nams expands its community partnerships.

    While there has been a spike in the number of people seeking help for addiction over the years, Dr Cheok said there are still some who are not being helped.

    "We believe that there are many others who may be struggling with their addictions in silence, either because they are unaware of the availability of help channels or are in denial," he said.

    Nams has tried to make its services more accessible by extending them beyond IMH and its satellite clinics in some polyclinics.

    Since August, it has stationed a counsellor with Credit Counselling Singapore, a charity which helps people with their debt problems, once a week. This is so that if their clients' debt issues have risen out of a gambling addiction, the Nams counsellor can intervene on the same day.

    Likewise, there is a Nams counsellor at Club Heal in Bukit Batok, a voluntary welfare organisation that helps persons who have mental illness and their families.

    Yesterday, Nams also launched its education arm, Addiction Recovery College, to engage the public on addiction prevention as well as treatment and wellness options.

    A range of courses, workshops and resources will be provided at IMH for the public and practitioners in the field of addictions.

    A former substance abuse addict, who wants to be known only as Mr Boon, said his family found out that he could get help at Nams by doing an online search seven years ago and got him to go there. To date, he is still receiving outpatient treatment at Nams.

    "Then, I never knew that there was a safe place I could go and it was a lonely journey for me as people had the misconception that stopping addiction was a matter of willpower," said the 40-year-old.

    "But it is involuntary and withdrawal symptoms could lead to depression and suicidal tendencies so people should know that addiction is a chronic disease and sufferers should seek professional help."