A WEST Belfast man is heading up the work of a new charity focused on problem gambling.

Barry Fennell​ took up the role of Programme Manager for the local branch of the Gambling with Lives charity earlier this month.

Gambling with Lives was set up by the families and friends of young people who have taken their own lives as a direct result of gambling.

​No one knows how many deaths there are related to gambling each year but the latest UK research indicates that there may be between 250 and 650 gambling related suicides every year –  a minimum of one every working day.

Explaining more about the charity, Barry said: "Gambling with Lives is a UK-based charity who are relatively new.

"Gambling is an issue many people simply do not want to talk about but Gambling with Lives wants to address the issues and harms associated with gambling.

"A lot of my work will be rolling out an educational programme to schools and young people to raise awareness of the risks associated with gambling.

"The programme will include some hard hitting videos and I will work with youth groups and community leaders too.

"I am also working with a man whose son took his own life after issues associated with gambling

"Gambling is a massive issue, especially in the North. There are between 250 to 650 gambling related suicides every year across the UK. It is a minimum of one person every working day. 

"The North is one of the least served regions in terms of the risk of gambling and treatment for gambling disorder. 

"The support and services are limited compared to other addictions such as alcohol and drugs.

"As an organisation, we will also guide people who come to us for the correct support that they need.

"We also provide support to families who have lost a loved one due to a gambling issue suicide.

"We are also supportive of the 'Big Step' campaign which is all about trying to address the relationship that football has with gambling.

You cannot watch a football match now without the influence or association of gambling in your face or on the screen."

​Gambling with Lives aims to support families who have been bereaved by gambling-related suicides, raise awareness amongst gamblers, their families and friends and health professionals of the dangerous effects of gambling on mental health – and the high suicide risk.

They also hope to reduce gambling-related harm by supporting better regulation of gambling products which lead to an increased risk of gambling addiction and adverse effects on health. The charity wants to promote the treatment of gambling as a health issue which requires improved access to health services integrated with the NHS, and access to support for families and friends. It will give a voice to families and friends bereaved by gambling and bring the health issues surrounding gambling to the attention of policy makers and bodies responsible for regulating the gambling industry.

Specialist support is available to families bereaved by gambling. Email support@gamblingwithlives.org or call 07375 301 955.