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EPIC Blog: Covid-19, Mental Health & Gambling

Today (Saturday 10th October) the World Health Organisation will be marking #WorldMentalHealthDay.

In what is truly uncertain and difficult times for many people, from all walks of life, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel it is important for us to share our own experiences as we mark what is always an important day in the calendar.

At EPIC Risk Management, we have several team members who have their own Lived Experience with problem gambling and the seismic impact it can have on one’s mental health.

We asked Scott Davies, EPIC Risk Management’s Lead Professional Sports Facilitator to pen a few words of his own story and how in the days of COVID-19, talking about mental health, being aware of the risks of problem-gambling is as important as it ever has been.

Scott is a former professional footballer whose career was cut short as a result of a crippling gambling addiction that lasted for nine years. Since seeking help and rehabilitating in 2015, Scott has sought to share his incredible story and experiences in order to help others avoid the same path, working with countless professional sports teams throughout the UK.

Here’s his insight.

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has changed how we are working if working at all. Redundancies being made all over the country, hours being cut and businesses going to the wall. That horrible feeling of uncertainty as to when, if ever, work will return to normal. We understand that financially it can lead to issues and result in excessive gambling to increase disposable income limits and take away the monetary pressures.

It is not just what gambling does to your money, but what it also does to your cognition. The time spent gambling, thinking about gambling, or exhausting every avenue of finance to get hold of more money to gamble. Is it taking over your life? Are you thinking about gambling more often than not?

Many gamblers suffer from mental health issues as a side effect of gambling. Have you become an insomniac betting on world sports? Feeling guilty about how you gamble? Or even become a compulsive liar when people ask about your relationship with gambling? If so, it could be time to reach someone you trust so that you can start the process of getting back on your own two feet and start moving forward once again.

What does Covid-19 mean for people that have the urge to gamble?

Nobody could have ever imagined that 2020 would turn out this way. From the facemasks to the hand-sanitisers, the social bubbles of six to the complications of having to work from home, who would have thought this?

The extra hour some may have in the mornings to not be sat in traffic, but to get up and study the form of the days racing or to check which football club has been blighted by injuries and have no chance of getting anything from the 6 pm kick-off in the Premier League. Yes, at 6 pm! This just shows the abnormality of life we are living in.

Are you holding onto a secret? Living that double life? The husband or wife thinks you are having an affair because when they talk you are not in the room and your mind is elsewhere. Checking to see if your placepot at Kelso has saved you from the financial troubles that you have created over the past few years of gambling.

Many millions like to chance their luck to enable them to afford the nicer things in life and believe that gambling can give them this. Hopes and dreams shattered daily, thinking that tomorrow is the day where their luck will change.

Who remembers that feeling pre-match sat in the pub outside the stadium ready to go and cheer on your team? A few more in the concourse before walking the steps to get to your seat. Online bets have been placed but within 5 minutes your team is 1-0 down. Half time does not look too bad after all, ‘two of my teams are winning, and the other two drawing, I only need Plymouth and Barnsley to score’.

£100 down. £20 on my matchday ticket, £50 on food and drink and my £30 accumulator did not come in. Is every Saturday starting to look like the previous one? Going home filled with anger, feeling guilty, and can no longer take the wife out for the meal you had promised that morning.

The excuses start to flow but that is fine as you have a whole list that you can choose from. Gamblers think quick and act fast to stop the secret from being told. One thing for sure is that doing things your way is just painting over the cracks and delaying the inevitable argument or avoiding those awkward questions you do not want to face.

How is your state of mind?

That compulsion to bet whilst knowing you are going to struggle to pay the utility bills that are due in four days. Hiding from people, lack of interaction with the outside world while your self-esteem is tumbling at a rapid rate of knots. And this all started from losing a bet.

All the worries racing through your mind and all you want to do is escape. You will no doubt think that gambling can occupy these thoughts and give it one more shot. The comfort you might be getting from placing a bet, but in reality, it is the most dangerous place you can be. Welcome to the vicious circle.

Financial limits, time spent online, and tracking your ups and downs are just a few tools to name that can help you become a more self-responsible player. We would advise anyone to enforce these measures if gambling is starting to take over your time, money, and cognition, which is the way gambling makes you think and feel.

If borrowing money from banks and lenders seems normal to you to enable you to gamble, then you have a problem. Whether or not you are borrowing less money from the bank as your friend, this shows a betting characteristic of spending beyond your disposable income limits which is a red warning sign for us.

What can be done?

At EPIC, we want to educate to stop people from reaching the end of that cliff. With 7 people at the company who have lived experience with gambling disorder, we believe that telling our stories to people far and wide will help combat the dangers of what can be an extremely devastating addiction.

We never want people to have to go through the embarrassment of that card declining when treating the family to a takeaway, not being able to afford to get to work, or missing a night out with your friends because the money you had put aside all went on trap 6 at Crayford dogs.

Hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country will have an unhealthy relationship with gambling, but one thing you must realise is that nobody can change that except you. Our advice to anyone suffering gambling-related harm is to reach out and speak to someone so that the problem is shared. That overwhelming sense of relief that the secret is now out and that you are no longer having to deal with this alone is just one of the fantastic feelings along the road of recovery.

A life without gambling is a happier life for all those in recovery at EPIC.

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