As someone who is passionate about mental health, I find that whilst conversations around illnesses such as; depression, anxiety or bi-polar are entering the mainstream, addiction remains a heavy taboo within our community.

Although, individuals from the ethnic minorities are less likely to gamble, the likelihood that they are twice as likely to become problem gamblers is concerning.

This is due to the heightened stigma surrounding gambling. Those who develop addictions experience a much higher level of stigma than individuals living with mental health. This in fact has been widely proven to be a barrier to individuals seeking treatment.

What is stigma? Stigma is the discrepancy between a person’s virtual identity, and his actual social identity.

The virtual identity is one which is attached by society and the actual is the attributes the individual actually possesses. This is where my story begins...

My name is Suhayl and gambling related harm has ravaged my life, until the day I decided to seek support. Aside from the financial difficulties and overwhelming debt, by far the greatest consequence upon me was the devastation upon my emotional and mental health.

The shame and guilt accentuated a decline in my self-worth and self-esteem. Buried under the veneer of religious observance was a person struggling with an addiction.

I memorised the Quran at the age of 17, and engaged in various missionary and educational activities within the Muslim community of Preston. I lived with the maxim, ‘I keep all my problems to myself because I don’t want to burden others’.

This is where I found my escape, online gambling. The compulsive nature of my gambling manifested in spending every waking hour betting on sports and horse racing.

As a compulsive individual, I would study the form of horses, follow online forums and become absorbed in what became my dystopian world.

A by-product of my reckless gambling was by far hurting those with whom I had nourished a lifetime of trust and affinity.

This was slowly and at times instantly shattered by the scheming, lies, embezzlement, and impulsive nature that developed.

A Jekyll and Hyde character began to emerge which started to alarm people who were nearest and dearest. It is not surprising that individuals with gambling addictions harm at least 10 people around them including family and friends.

As I struggled with the addiction, which was still in my delusional appraisal not a mental illness, I sought various mediums of spiritual interventions.

Repeatedly falling back and forth. On the path of self-improvement and spiritual purification we adopt an ‘all or nothing’ attitude.

Unable to make that 180-degree transformation and immediately resolve my contradictions, I felt a hypocrite.

What followed can only be described as a turn of catastrophic decisions and desperation that resulted in the addiction firmly forming a cycle of self-abuse.

The relationship between compulsive gambling and criminality is high and for many inevitable. Ironically, my only saving grace were the victims who suffered from my actions, for their grace and patience led to me finding my way to treatment in the form of psycho and group therapy.

I have experienced that adopting a psycho-spiritual approach to treatment which is culturally appropriate may provide the best chance for recovery.

A large part of my recovery was through the Beacon Counselling Trust service.

They provided free and confidential one-to-one and couples therapy for those dealing with problem gambling, as well as their affected family, friends and partners.

I found it to be a culturally-responsive service that was able to book me in for treatment straight away.

In addition, speaking to a Community Connector who is an 'expert by lived experience' proved a tremendous boost as he was able to understand the mind of a compulsive gambler and offer a non-judgemental listening-ear and advice.

Individuals affected by problematic gambling, or the gambling behaviour of someone else can contact the Lancashire Community Connector Terry on 07539 756 042 or give Beacon a call on 0151 226 0696.

This is a Liverpool-based number but they offer support from bases all across the North West, and will arrange treatment for you in your local area through this number.

What I implore to the community and individuals affected by compulsive gamblers is to develop a compassionate response, one that encourages them to seek treatment without fear of being judged.

As the culture of shame and stigmatisation of those struggling can be immensely harmful.To acknowledge a problem and recognise the human face dealing with it does not equate to its acceptance or normalisation. It is a recognition of the human condition and the consequences of having free will.