Casino Suicides Often Linked to Problem Gambling, Depression, Psychologist Warns

A rash of recent suicides at US gaming properties are not surprising, given some of the risk factors, according to a Tennessee psychologist who follows problem gambling.

Dr. Lesley Dickson, a former president and executive director of the Nevada Psychiatric Association, shown above. In a 2018 lecture, she told health professionals it is a myth that most suicidal people have made up their minds that they really want to die. (Image: Las Vegas Business Press)

Dr. James P. Whelan, who directs the Institute for Gambling Education and Research at the University of Memphis, said that suicidal incidents at gaming properties can follow bouts of depression and other disorders sometimes associated with addictive gambling.

For instance, last month, an unnamed 29-year-old Philadelphia woman jumped from an upper floor of Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort parking garage onto the street below where she died, police said.

Another incident took place last October, when a 28-year-old Kentucky woman fatally shot herself at South Dakota’s Buffalo Bodega Gaming Complex while on the dance floor at a Halloween party.

The specific cause of the self-inflicted deaths in both cases was not released by authorities.

But based on research, Whelan points out that suicide sometimes can follow if someone was depressed, impulsive, suffered from a gambling problem, or lost more money than they could afford.

It is also a pressing concern if someone is suffering from a major depression. In fact, major depression is found more among problem gamblers than it is in the general population, Whelan said.

“As for gamblers, we do know that the rate of suicide attempts and suicide ideation is particularly high among individuals who have symptoms of a gambling problem,” Whelan further told “… It is not surprising that someone would go to a casino or gambling venue and commit suicide.”

Less likely, a suicidal person can be a relative or significant other to a problem gambler, Whelan said.

Some also go to casinos to commit suicide because they are public places, Whelan confirmed.

Also, gambling venues can draw at-risk individuals who need cash or access to cash, and maybe even someone involved in sex trafficking, Whelan said.

The number of suicides at gaming properties should lead casinos to act proactively.

“Prevention is hard ,but probably worth [it for] casinos to consider,” Whelan said. “It might be particularly important for those locations where a suicide has occurred.”

Casino security staff, property managers, and other employees could be given a plan to provide visitors with suicide prevention hotline numbers and information.

Nevadans At Risk for Suicides

In addition, the gambling mecca of Las Vegas has one of the highest suicide rates among US cities.

In recent years, the entire state of Nevada ranked between the fourth- and 11th-highest US states in suicide rates, according to the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention. More than half of those who commit suicide in Nevada fatally shoot themselves.

But help is available. In 2018, Dr. Lesley Dickson, a former president and executive director of the Nevada Psychiatric Association, and who has taught at UNLV, told health professionals, “It’s a myth that most suicidal people have made up their minds that they really want to die.”

Suicidal Individuals Usually Want to Live

“Most suicidal people desperately want to live, and many will seek help immediately after attempting to harm themselves,” Dickson was quoted by the Las Vegas Business Press. “Even people who jumped off the Golden State Bridge and survived are glad they survived despite the injuries they may have sustained.”

For prevention information, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 800-273-8255, or text TALK to 741741.

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