About Project ACTIVATE and the ACTVet app

Why is a veteran-specific, gambling support app a good idea?

This project was informed by both published evidence and by those with experience of veteran gambling difficulties. The veterans we talked to explained they felt there was a definite need for accessible gambling support, that was tailored towards them and their needs.

When looking at gambling literature it is concerning to note that being affiliated with the armed forces increases your likelihood of experiencing gambling difficulties by up to 11 times, compared to someone who never served. Also, this elevated risk seems to be fairly stable over time. This means that a person could have left the military several years previously and still have an increased risk of experiencing gambling difficulties at some future point.

Some key issues identified with gambling, gambling support and veteran gambling support are:

It is easier to keep a gambling difficulty hidden compared to other addictions (versus, say, alcohol), so when a person really needs help they have likely had difficulties for quite some time and their needs may now be quite complex
Gambling is fairly stigmatised – this can be a barrier to support seeking. Help-seeking for veterans may also feel fairly stigmatised so can be a barrier
Support is not always that accessible or available – would you know where to get help?
Support for gambling is seldom tailored to veterans – this can make support less effective, especially where the veteran does present with complex needs
One reason a veteran may have more complex needs is because gambling often co-occurs with other difficulties, such as PTSD. Sometimes gambling can be the result of another problem, which means treating it is more difficult
The demographic of people most affected by gambling-related suicide seems to map onto those more at risk of military-related suicide (e.g., younger, male, single)

Accessible Gambling Support

The team decided to put gambling support into an accessible app and make that app free (without financial cost). The purpose of this was to make gambling support accessible and convenient. An app could also help reduce or remove the stigma linked to gambling or help-seeking. As the app would be veteran informed it would be tailored towards them specifically.

If you think you may be experiencing gambling difficulties, please download the app and follow the programme.

The GREAT Network and MilGAM

The School of Psychology, Swansea University, hosts the Gambling Research, Education and Treatment (GREAT) Network. GREAT is funded by Health and Care Research, Wales. GREAT’s core function is to drive research, education and treatment excellence for all forms of gambling-related harm. GREAT has conducted several studies relating to military or veteran gambling, where research findings have highlighted the elevated risk of gambling in veterans as a group and the broader costs linked to gambling difficulties.

A need was identified to conduct further research around veteran/military gambling specifically, so MilGAM was created through a partnership with Anglia Ruskin University’s Veteran and Families Institute. As such, MilGAM has the lived experience of those with gambling difficulties at its core. MilGAM is based at Swansea University and is co-directed by both Professor Simon Dymond (Swansea) and Professor Matt Fossey (Anglia Ruskin). ACTIVATE is one project falling under the umbrella of MilGAM.

Project funder

The pilot, launch phase of ACT Vet is being funded by the Office of Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), which is a central government cabinet office.