Following Paul Merson’s interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) show, GamCare’s hotline received an unexpected flood of calls yesterday.
The former Premier League footballer opened up about his personal experience with gambling addiction and the devastating effects it has on his family and loved ones.
During the conversation, Merson wept as he said that he had relapsed on his gambling addiction during lockdown last year, but that he was on the ‘path to recovery.’
Merson told his story, revealing that he began gambling at the age of 16 as an Arsenal schoolboy trainee, with habits fostered by a locker room culture that encouraged gambling as a recreational activity.
Merson admits to losing £7 million due to his combined alcohol and gambling addictions during the peak of his career in the 1990s, with the footballer adding that ‘gambling was a worse habit’.
GamCare applauds frank interview
Merson’s frank interview has been applauded by GamCare helpline counsellors, who said his tale is “synonymous with many of the calls the charity had received over lockdown.”
The helpline had an uptick in calls yesterday as a result of Merson’s interview, with callers sharing concerns about gambling-related debts, self-harm, and relapsing back into addiction.
Merson’s comments will have struck a chord with vulnerable individuals, according to the charity, as 77 percent of gamblers phoning its helpline are men, and two-thirds (66 percent) of GamCare treatment participants have debt problems.
Help to tackle stigma
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive at GamCare explained: “The sudden influx of calls we have received following Paul’s interview highlights how important it is to speak up on issues around gambling, to help tackle the stigma and ultimately to reduce gambling related harm.
“We know how difficult it can be for people to speak publicly about gambling – their own or someone else’s – and it is encouraging to see public figures such as Paul come forward on Good Morning Britain and to see the positive influence it can have on others seeking help.
“We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us on the National Gambling Helpline. We want you to know we are here for you, we understand and we can help. If you think someone you know needs support, please get in touch.”