Sunday, November 27, 2022

Gilly Flaherty: ‘Gambling is a dangerous addiction, people need to talk to prevent suicide’

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With players increasingly tempted by the World Cup in Qatar, the Liverpool defender speaks to i about her mental health struggles – and why she is supporting a campaign urging people to seek help

Gilly Flaherty knows she’d lose her job if she played soccer herself, so apart from the occasional horse flutter, she’s never been drawn to the world of betting.

However, the Liverpool defender has seen the devastation that gambling can wreak on life, with former team-mates and loved ones getting its grip, and she’s even witnessed one of her close friends, a former footballer, gamble through it all lost – from his money and home to the end of his relationship with his wife.

But what worries Gilly most is that those addicted to gambling feel that the only way out is the debt accumulated during their losing streak or the despair they feel because they are addicted to betting , and the impact on their world is to end their own lives.

With the World Cup posing a potential risk for those already struggling with gambling addictions as well as first-time players hoping to win, Gilly is urging people to speak out about their struggles and seek support.

The 31-year-old, who has opened up about her own mental health issues and how she attempted suicide — which was in no way related to gambling — believes mental health plays a big part in addiction. Gilly tells I how grateful she is to have survived and how she would hate it if someone else thought ending their life was the only way out of gambling debts.

“Gambling does not discriminate. It could be everyone. It can affect people as young as 17 or 18 or the older generation and affects both men and women. The problem is when people start playing, get used to winning and then start losing and can’t handle losing, so potentially lose more money,” she said.

“Or it may be that they struggle with many things in life and gaming is their salvation. And distracts her, but then spirals out of control. I love it when people come out and share their stories.”

With the World Cup games now fast approaching, Gilly has teamed up with former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson and YouTuber Ellis Platten – founder of the AwayDays football channel – to star in a new film about gambling at big attending sporting events.

The film features all three speaking about their experiences and raising awareness of the free gambling support and tools available through TalkBanStop, a partnership between organizations GamCare, Gamban and GAMSTOP that provide support to those suffering from gambling harm .

“With every major sporting event, there’s a temptation to play,” says Gilly I. “In something like the World Cup, you don’t just watch a game; You have so many games to choose from throughout the day.

“It’s going to be a difficult time for people who are playing or are involved with it anyway. You may be betting a lot of money, or even if it’s a smaller amount of money, such as B. £20 per game because there are so many games it will all add up.

Gilly – who has nine caps for England – believes the World Cup will attract first-time players who could then fall prey to gambling addiction – particularly during the livelihood crisis when so many people are looking for a way out of their money worries to hope.

The 31-year-old is open about her personal struggles with mental health and has supported the FA’s heads-up campaign to break the stigma and encourage people to speak up when they’re struggling. She urges people to talk to whoever they find easiest — whether it’s family and friends or a complete stranger who understands what they’re going through.

Gambling With Lives, a charity set up in 2018 by families who have survived gambling-related suicides, says there are around 400 gambling-related suicides in England each year.

Doctors have reported a rise in gambling addiction, particularly sending suicidal young men to hospitals, and they have urged betting companies to consider the “human cost behind their winnings” after demand for NHS gambling clinics has risen by 42 per cent annually.

Gilly herself was hospitalized after attempting suicide in 2007 at the age of 17. she tells I She is thankful every day that her attempt was unsuccessful and she wants to highlight the awareness of the harm caused by gambling and the support available to prevent gambling-related suicides.

“Nothing you go through in your life justifies taking your own life. But when you’re at that point, you don’t think about anyone anymore,” says Gilly, reflecting on her own experience. “You’re in that place where you only think about yourself.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than leaving my family and loved ones behind. I’m just lucky it didn’t work.

“When it comes to gambling-related suicides, I don’t want anyone to feel that this is the only way out. You hear so many stories of people taking their own lives and then people ask, ‘Why did they do that?’ and it turns out they were wrapped in debt and had so many money problems.

“It’s heartbreaking because there is help out there for people. But the problem is that people get to the point where they just feel like there’s no more help.

“But there are people who can get them out of there.”

Gilly started her football career with Millwall before playing for Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool.

Recalling the preparations for her suicide attempt, she says: “I was living far from home and I was at Arsenal Academy and I was going through a really bad time. I didn’t play many games and was basically a substitute.

“I also struggled to accept that I’m gay. People are talking about being gay now, and it’s pretty open-ended. But it wasn’t then. To be honest, I didn’t really know what gay was. I didn’t know what I was or who I was.

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