Teen gamblers can ‘talk it out’ on McGill website

Centre for Youth Gambling offers anonymous online chat with counsellors.

Montreal, October 31, 2006 - A new McGill University website offers Canadian teens the chance to chat anonymously with trained counsellors about how to help themselves or their friends deal with gambling problems.

Called "Talk it out," the site was introduced as a one-year pilot project by the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High Risk Behaviours at McGill and is funded by a grant from the Max Bell Foundation.

While there are existing resources for teens struggling with gambling problems, the new chat site, www.gamtalk4teens.org, targets teens who might not have the courage to pick up the phone or visit a school counsellor. To log in, they must fill out a questionnaire about their gambling behaviour, but no personal information is required and the service is completely anonymous.

"We know teens feel comfortable in front of their computers and love to chat," says Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky, psychologist, co-director of the Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and leading expert on youth gambling.

By providing the service online, Dr. Derevensky and his colleague, centre co-director Dr. Rina Gupta, hope to reach out to kids who otherwise would not seek help.

"The research is clear that there’s a meaningful percentage of youths who have a serious gambling problem, but these youths are not presenting themselves for treatment," explains Gupta. "A big preoccupation in the research community has been how to get them the help they need."

While most teens experiment with gambling, between 4 and 10% will develop gambling problems, almost three times the average rate among adults, according to research conducted by Drs. Derevensky and Gupta.

"Adolescence is a period of risk-taking, they’re less likely to think of consequences before acting and there is a decreased awareness of the potential problems among teens compared to adults," Gupta explained.

All of the counsellors on the chat site are trained by McGill’s Department of Education and Counselling Psychology and the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours. The counsellors, supervised by centre staff, are available for free, anonymous online chat every evening from 8 p.m. to midnight, including holidays.

Contact: Michael Bourguignon
McGill University Relations Office
514-398-8305 or michael.bourguignon@mcgill.ca

On the Web:
McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High Risk Behaviours:
www.youthgambling.com