Former Gambler Speaks Out to Challenge Stigma: Breaking the Silence

Liam Colebrook, a 40-year-old former problem gambler from Ripley in Derbyshire, is on a mission to challenge the stigmas surrounding seeking addiction support. Colebrook, who describes himself as on a “one-man crusade,” wants to break the silence and promote open conversations about gambling addiction. His stance aligns with several leading gambling-related charities hoping to encourage more people to come forward and get professional assistance.

In an interview with the BBC, Colebrook revealed that he had gone through a divorce, financial losses, and struggles with mental health due to his gambling addiction. He emphasized the societal acceptance of gambling as part of social activities, making it difficult for individuals to recognize when a habit turns into an addiction.

His addiction led to significant losses, not just financially but also emotionally. Despite external success in the workplace and maintaining a facade of normalcy, Colebrook admits to losing everything, including his emotional well-being. He hid his problem from family and friends, but after two stints in rehab, he is committed to dispelling the stigma associated with seeking help for gambling addiction.

“Embrace every bit of help you get and understand no one will judge you, and you won’t be the first person to be struggling with this, and unfortunately, you won’t be the last,” said Colebrook.

While sharing his story, Colebrook acknowledged the societal misconception that gambling addiction is a simple matter of willpower. He insisted that openly discussing the problem and seeking help is essential for a long-term solution. He encouraged empathy and understanding, emphasizing that recovery is possible and individuals can reclaim their lives.

According to gambling harm support group GamCare, its National Gambling Helpline experienced a record number of calls and online messages in 2023. The helpline received 52,370 calls, a 24% increase compared to 2022. The charity also noted a significant rise in calls during the festive period, with December 2023 seeing a 39% year-on-year increase.

GambleAware, another leading UK gambling support organization, holds regular campaigns aimed at challenging stigma and encouraging individuals suffering harm to seek help. The charity revealed that 62% of the people who know problem gamblers would negatively judge them, impeding timely assistance.

As individuals like Colebrook bravely step forward to share their experiences, the hope is that it sparks a broader conversation about gambling addiction, reduces stigma, and encourages more people to seek help. Organizations like GamCare and GambleAware will remain available to those in need, providing assistance and spreading awareness. Effective regulations are also a necessity, safeguarding gamblers from addiction.