GamCare has reported that its helpline registered a sudden influx in calls yesterday following Paul Merson’s interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) show.
The former Premier League footballer revealed his lived experience with gambling addiction and its harmful consequences on family and loved ones.
Merson broke down in tears during the interview, revealing that he had relapsed on his gambling addiction over the course of lockdown last year – but that he was on the ‘path to recovery’.
Sharing his experience, Merson revealed that he had begun gambling aged 16 as an Arsenal schoolboy trainee, with habits nurtured by a locker room culture that promoted gambling as a casual pastime.
At the height of his career during the 90s, Merson admitted that he had lost £7 million due to his combined alcohol and gambling addiction – with the footballer admitting that ‘gambling was a worse habit’.
GamCare helpline advisors have praised Merson’s candid interview, stating that his story is “synonymous with many of the calls the charity had received over lockdown”.
Yesterday, the helpline registered increased calls citing Merson’s interview, in which callers shared anxieties over gambling-related debts, self-harm and relapsing back into addiction.
The Charity stated that Merson’s revelations will have resonated with vulnerable adults, as 77% of gamblers contacting its helpline identified as male whilst two thirds (66%) of participants attending GamCare treatment are reported to have debt issues.
“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,” said Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive at GamCare.
“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.”