24-hour help via webchat for problem gamblers

An online counselling service for gamblers is now available round the clock after a three-month test run ended last year.

During the trial from September to December, 360 chat logs were registered.

Most of these users were deemed to require face-to-face counselling thereafter, said a spokesman for the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

Set up by the NCPG and the National Addictions Management Service, the webchat allows problem gamblers to chat online with paracounsellors who offer a listening ear but are not certified to provide professional counselling.

"The webchat caters to those who feel more comfortable seeking help online for problem gambling issues," said the spokesman.

He declined to comment on the profile of the users or the nature of the calls, noting that the helpline was fairly new.

Though it is not known how many of the users who needed face-to-face counselling eventually sought it, counsellors say the webchat is a good platform to serve as their first entry point in getting support.

Other counselling hotlines have seen such a trend.

For example, one out of six clients who went for specialist counselling at suicide prevention agency Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) first contacted it through e-mail to seek emotional support.

Said SOS executive director Christine Wong: "It feels less threatening due to the anonymity and distance provided by such a medium."

To use the webchat, go to www.ncpg.org.sg.

This article was first published on March 21, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.