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Families bereaved through gambling-linked suicide launch education programme

·2 min read

Families bereaved through gambling-linked suicides have launched a new education programme to alert schoolchildren to the dangers of addiction.

The awareness-raising initiative is being piloted in schools in Northern Ireland and England ahead of a planned rollout across the rest of the UK.

It has been developed by the charity Gambling with Lives, which was set up by families who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Tuesday’s launch in Belfast came as Stormont MLAs continue to consider the first legislative reforms to gambling laws in Northern Ireland for more than 35 years.

A number of parents bereaved through gambling-linked suicides gathered in the Long Gallery of Parliament Buildings at Stormont to launch the programme.

Among them were Co Fermanagh couple Peter and Sadie Keogh, whose 34-year-old son Lewis, a gambling addict, took his own life in 2013.

The last line of a note he left his family read: “I need some peace, addiction is cruel.”

Mrs Keogh said there was a need to educate children to the dangers of gambling.

“Children are taught about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and smoking, they are told about road safety and sexual predators, but no-one tells them about the gambling industry and its most dangerous products, or the harm that they can so easily inflict,” she said.

“Appropriate gambling education could save many lives every year in Northern Ireland, where we have high levels of gambling disorder, and the relevant treatment is difficult to access, when compared with drug and alcohol addiction.”

Peter and Sadie Keogh whose son Lewis took his own life after struggling with a gambling addiction (David Young/PA)
Peter and Sadie Keogh whose son Lewis took his own life after struggling with a gambling addiction (David Young/PA)

Gambling with Lives says between 250 to 260 suicides in the UK every year are linked to gambling problems.

The charity points to data indicating that Northern Ireland has a higher rate of gambling disorder than any other part of the UK.

Barry Fennell, programme manager for Northern Ireland at Gambling with Lives, said: “Gambling harm is a massive issue here in Northern Ireland – tens of thousands of people are addicted.

“Our new programme has been specially designed to raise awareness in young people of the harm that gambling can cause, opening the door for conversations with them as opposed to just waiting for the harm to occur.

“We’re confident that the programme will help protect many young people.”

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