Opinion

Gambling should carry a public health warning like cigarettes to prevent suicides

Gambling addiction can have devastating consequences on all aspects of a person’s life. Urgent legislation is needed to prevent it ,writes SOS Silence of Suicide's Yvette Greenway-Mansfield

gambling

New gambling reforms are needed to prevent addiction causing greater harms in 2024. Image: Rupixen / Unsplash

There were approximately a shocking 496 deaths by suicide attributed to the effects of gambling in 2023. It’s a devastating figure which highlights the real cost of gambling – having a serious and sometimes deadly effect on the mental health of those who are addicted, and the ripple impacts on their loved ones. As you, or your loved ones may be betting everything you own to chase the win, the big betting companies made circa £14.2 billion in 2020 at your expense.

Gambling addiction has been a significant issue in the UK for some time, with widespread availability of betting shops and online gambling platforms alongside new forms of gambling which are positioned as accessible and appealing to a younger generation. Yet, there continues to be no well intentioned or robust plans in place to safeguard adults and children.

Furthermore, there are many more ways of gambling, more things to gamble on and some of these facilities may not be seen as gambling. Take the National Lottery for example. Your primary thoughts might be that you are donating indirectly to worthy charitable causes and therefore you are doing something helpful. Or, you may have your eye on the jackpot. Mainly, though, you’ll probably think of it as a bit of fun.

Great if you can control it. However, many people cannot.

There is no doubt that urgent action is required to prevent us seeing deaths by suicide attributed to gambling becoming even more prevalent in 2024. And there are clear and simple measures that can be implemented to begin the process of public awareness, prevention and intervention – like we’ve seen with smoking and wearing seatbelts in cars.

At SOS Silence of Suicide, we see and hear the crippling impact of gambling addiction on those we support day in, and day out. Whether that’s through calls to our helpline, interactions on social media or the personal stories shared with us, our work shows that the government and betting industry must take this issue seriously. They can no longer gamble with lives.

This is why we have launched our #ThinkItOver (#TIO) campaign which calls for urgent gambling reform.

We are working towards four simple aims: (1) Legislate to end pervasive better advertising, and the enticements that accompany them, (2) Ensure all non-pervasive betting carries a public health warning, similar to cigarettes, (3) Robust, no-nonsense, notices in any places where bets in the hope of returns are placed, which must clearly display mental health warnings (including online betting platforms), and (4) Support of our Think It Over concept, whereby anyone attempting to place a bet, whatever platform they choose, is subject to a minimum 10-minute cooling off period to re-think their plans and hopefully walk away.

People shouldn’t be bombarded with advertisements to gamble more and enticements, mouth-wateringly worded, need to be banned immediately. This completely takes advantage of people who might be struggling with addiction and mental health. And why is it that when we know gambling leads to deaths, no action is taken to add health warnings? The disparity between physical and mental health is shocking here.

The government and Gambling Commission must hold themselves accountable for the crisis around gambling addiction and mental health challenges and suicide rates. We must be doing more to reduce the shocking numbers of those addicted to gambling – which currently sits at 1.4 million adults and over 100,000 children. As well as more to support those who are trying to seek help, by supporting charities such as SOS Silence of Suicide, which are providing solace for these individuals.

Gambling addiction can have devastating consequences on all aspects of a person’s life, as well as those around them. By putting appropriate measures in place, we can have a significant impact on reducing these instances and finding a way out of this crisis.

SOS Silence of Suicide are calling for people to sign their petition calling for urgent gambling reform: To learn more, please head here.

Yvette Greenway-Mansfield is CEO & co-founder of SOS Silence of Suicide

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