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Mental Health

Online gambling causing surge of suicidal young men in A&E, NHS clinic says

Earlier this year the NHS stopped taking cash from the gambling industry for the treatment of people suffering addiction

ONLINE GAMBLING IS causing a surge in suicidal young men turning to A&E, according to health bosses at the NHS.

A 42% annual rise in demand for the UK health service’s gambling clinics has resulted in the health service needing to open another two facilities in England to cope.

According to the clinical lead and consultant psychologist for the NHS Northern Gambling Service Matt Gaskell, the clinics are full of “young men in football shirts” who have fallen foul of “predatory tactics” by betting firms.

He told The Times: “People start gambling as soon as they wake up in the morning; they’re gambling in the shower, gambling while they’re driving to work. The NHS is picking up the tab.

“There has been an increase in people turning up at A&E in crisis, in a state of suicide. People are completely desperate, begging for help and seeing suicide as a genuine escape.”

According to Dr Gaskell, three quarters of patients are men and most are in their 30s.

“One of the first things I noticed was that groups were filled with young men wearing football shirts,” he added. “That hasn’t stopped.”

Earlier this year the NHS stopped taking cash from the gambling industry for the treatment of people suffering addiction.

bearded-young-man-is-lying-in-bed-under-his-blanket-he-cannot-sleep-and-is-watching-something-on-his-mobile-phone Three quarters of patients at gambling clinics are men and most are in their 30s, Dr Gaskell said Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

NHS England’s national mental health director, Claire Murdoch, said the funding decision had been “heavily influenced” by patients who were uncomfortable about using services paid for by the industry – a view that has been echoed by medics.

GambleAware accounts show it collected £16 million between April and December last year in voluntary donations from the gambling industry to fund a range of treatment services.

These include NHS gambling clinics, which received £1.2 million in 2020/21.

The overall voluntary pledges to GambleAware last year included £1 million from William Hill, just over £4 million from Bet365 and £4 million from Entain.

Between April and December last year, 668 people with the most severe gambling addiction issues were referred to NHS gambling clinics – up from 575 during the same period in 2020 – a 16.2% increase, according to NHS England.

The north of England has the highest proportion of at-risk gamblers, with 4.4% of adults in the North West and 4.9% in the North East being the most at risk of addiction.

Overall, it is estimated that around 0.5% of the UK adult population, around 246,000 people, are likely to have some form of gambling addiction and 2.2 million are at risk.

Industry makes profits of over £14 billion a year from gambling in the UK.

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