Gambling counsellor Jiri Dusta helps people to stop losing money.
Gambling counsellor Jiri Dusta helps people to stop losing money.

A mistress with a cold cruel heart

After spending the past two years working with people who have gambling problems, addictions counsellor and therapist Jiri Dusta has seen lots of families who are suffering. Jiri believes in educating family members in how to manage risks and to support their loved ones in effective ways, such as taking control of the bank account.

“For every problem gambler, there are five to 10 others who are significantly affected,” Jiri said.

“Those who have a close relationship with problem gamblers are often the first to realise something is wrong. They have a vital role to play in ensuring that gamblers get help before the situation becomes critical. No matter how much money has been lost, it’s never too late to begin the process of recovery and start a new life.”

Recent research has shown that loved ones tend to underestimate the extent of the problem, as the gambler will frequently keep their full losses secret. In Australia last year, 17 billion dollars was spent on gambling.

Jiri said it was common for problem gamblers to suffer from depression and anxiety, leading to high incidence of suicide.

“Most gamblers have multiple addictions – they often smoke and drink as well, which costs even more money,” Jiri said. “This often leads to more stress and heart attacks as well as psychological problems.”

A local bartender, who wants to be known as Mark, said he had developed a gambling addiction with poker machines and lost his family in the process. Although he has a grasp on the problem now, he said that he turned to gambling as a young immigrant because he was lonely and isolated.

“I was lonely and the poker machine became my best friend,” he said. “It was there 24/7, it never answered me back and sometimes it rewarded me if I kept feeding it.

“I was caught up the illusion that everything was ok. I was good at lying about it and it wasn’t till I was caught stealing money from my workplace that I sought help with a counsellor.”

Mark said that now, to cope with feeling lonely, he gets creative and writes prose.

“I pick up a pen and now use my illusional state to make something decent,” he said. “I’ve had one or two lapses but now I understand what I’m doing and go and talk to someone – it never goes away, you just learn to cope with it.”

As a therapist looking at the family system, counsellor Jiri Dusta believes in harm minimisation and is running a series of free workshops this week as part of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. The workshops are there to help people who have a problem gambler in their lives and want to know what they can do about it, or for anyone who wants to know more information about problem gambling. The workshops will be held on Friday, May 21 from 10am-12pm and from 6-8pm upstairs in the Uniting Church Hall on Keen Street, Lismore.

For Enquiries please contact the Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service on 02 6687 2520 or visit

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