Curse of gambling addiction hits GAA
Players ‘coming out of woodwork’ with major problems, warns GPA boss Farrell
The growing curse of gambling addiction is "like a steam train coming down the tracks" for the GAA, according to Gaelic Players' Association boss, Dessie Farrell.
Three inter-county players have availed of GPA services in the past year to enter treatment centres for the problem, but Farrell admits that many more are now "coming out of the woodwork". He explained: "In the last six months, this whole issue of gambling has taken us by surprise.
"It's that severe and that widespread. But we're starting to ask more questions about it now. Gambling is so accessible. You can have fellas on a coach going to a Championship game and they're on the iPhone, making bets. It's become a big, big problem. We're trying to get people who are dealing with these mental health/addiction issues back on their feet and give them a plan.
"But we're finding that a lot of players are on this merry-go-round, just ghosting through their lives. They mightn't necessarily be the extreme cases where there is depression or alcohol abuse, but a lot of them are on this carousel and don't know what it is they want to do or where they want to go. There's this chaos in their heads and it's camouflaged by their inter-county career."
In an extensive interview in today's Irish Independent, Farrell explains how more and more GPA members have come looking for help as they struggle to cope with issues of addiction and depression.
"The extreme level is where players have to engage with our counselling service," he said. "We have a network of clinical psychologists around the country, which our players can access free.
"Some very extreme cases might require hospitalisation or access to patient treatment clinics. In the last year, we've put three players into treatment centres for gambling addiction. Well, one was gambling/alcohol.
"But they're all coming out of the woodwork now with serious problems and the issues that stem from gambling, like significant debt and the upset in the home. There have been a lot of cases of that.
"This is going to hit us like a steam train coming down the tracks, that's how serious it is. We're actually talking to our counsellors now to see what we can do about putting together an education programme around this."