A coroner has found the suicide of a teenager in Warragul last year was due to an ATM at a local gambling venue inflaming his gambling addiction.
Jacob Anton Van Berlo, 19, hanged himself in the garage of his parents’ Maple Way home on May 11 last year after almost draining his bank account in 40 minutes at the Warragul Downtowner pokies.
The teenager had depression and a known gambling problem and contacted Gamblers Anonymous for help in September 2010 after losing his week’s pay in a day. His parents also knew of his problem.
The coroner, E C Batt, stated in his findings that access to an ATM inside the venue fuelled Mr Van Berlo’s gambling addiction.
“There is a strong inference arising from the circumstances of the young person’s death that the opportunity to access an automatic teller machine located within the gambling venue, operated to feed his gambling addiction and so fuel his depression as to drive him to commit suicide,” Mr Batt said.
Mr Batt also said the case should be brought to the attention of key bodies and policy formulators concerned with ATM’s and other cash dispensing machines in gambling venues.
From July this year ATM’s will be banned from pubs and clubs with poker machines, a policy implemented by the previous state government and extended by the present government to cover all automatic money withdrawal services.
Mr Van Berlo was an apprentice in pre-press graphics at the Warragul & Drouin Gazette, and visited the Downtowner in his lunch break on the day of his death. He did not return to work and was later being discovered dead by his mother when she returned from work just after 4PM.
He spoke with his employers about his problem early in 2011 and was prescribed a daily dose of Zoloft by a psychologist, a drug designed to combat major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Zoloft’s manufacturer, Pfizer, however warns the drug increases the risk of suicidal thinking and behaviour in children, adolescents and young adults.
The drug did not cure his gambling addiction and Mr Van Berlo went on to lose his week’s pay on at least two other occasions, once borrowing money from his mother having lost his pay at the pokies.
In the morning of the day of his death Mr Van Berlo texted a friend to say he would repay him the $100 he owed him.
The coroner described Mr Van Berlo as “a highly intelligent young person who became frustrated and somewhat directionless in his final years at secondary college.”
If you have a problem with depression you can call Lifeline on 131 114.
Gambling Help can be accessed for counselling, information and support 24/7 on 1800 858 858 or online at http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au.
headspace Warragul is at 34 Queen Street Warragul and can also be contacted on 5622 3677.
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