Government recognises gambling can kill in national suicide strategy

The Government’s new National Suicide Prevention Strategy has for the first time acknowledged that gambling is a suicide risk that can be so dominant that it’s the cause of a death.  

The strategy, published on Monday September 11, states: “…we do know that gambling can be a dominant factor without which the suicide may not have occurred. Action therefore needs to be taken to address the harms of gambling, including suicide, and reach people at risk.”

This supports years of research showing the link between gambling and suicide. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) estimates there are up to 496 gambling-related suicides every year in England, which would represent almost 10 per cent of all suicides nationally.

Will Prochaska, Strategy Director of Gambling with Lives said:

“The Government’s suicide prevention plan has acknowledged that gambling can kill.

“The Government’s planned reforms of gambling regulation should now squarely be viewed as suicide prevention measures, and should therefore give a greater leadership role to the Department of Health and Social Care.”

Gambling with Lives has long said that gambling leads directly to suicides, causing hundreds of deaths a year, based on its research and the testimonies of the dozens of families it directly supports.

The charity’s founders, Liz and Charles Ritchie, who lost their son Jack in 2017, have led work to collate research and bring the issue to the attention of policymakers. The inquest into the death of their son, Jack, which concluded in 2022, found failings by the government and the third sector to provide information, regulation and treatment for gambling disorder contributed to his death.

The inquest paved the way for a ruling in June this year which found that gambling disorder was a medical cause of the death of Luke Ashton who died in 2021. There are at least three more open inquests exploring the role of gambling in suicides.

The gambling industry has long tried to disassociate itself from suicides, hiding behind the well-intentioned guidance that suicide is a complex issue. Michael Dugher, CEO of the gambling industry lobbying group the Betting and Gaming Council, was recently criticised by the CEO of Samaritans for “twisting” its guidance to minimise links between gambling and suicide.

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