Bray spent years as a student with a gambling addiction and is now studying to become a mental health nurse, hoping to use his experience to help others with mental health and addiction issues. He also volunteers as a Peer Supporter for the charity Betknowmore, where he helps individuals who are struggling with their gambling.
How did you start gambling?
I started when I was 8. When I turned 18 and was legally able to gamble, I opened my first online account.
Did your gambling change when you went to university?
Yes. Within 3 months of moving to Manchester for university, I wasn't going to lectures or socialising. I'd spend all my time alone in my room, gambling day and night. University meant that I had spare time on my hands and access to more money than I'd ever had before - it was the perfect combination for gambling and it really impacted my mental health, causing it to rapidly decline.
Did you do anything at university to try to help your gambling?
I tried to give myself a fresh start by moving from Manchester to a university in Leeds, but the gambling followed me and was getting worse. I worked during the summer but by the end of my first term in Leeds, all of that money and my entire student loan was gone. I’d spent most of it on gambling.
When did you realise that you needed help?
Just before the second term started, I gambled my whole student loan away in 24 hours. I had no money left for the term. This was one of the worst moments of my life. I didn’t leave my room for two days and had suicidal thoughts. I realised that my gambling was out of control and finally came clean to my parents and they became a great help to me. With their support, I entered rehab in 2018.
Do you have any advice to anyone struggling with gambling?
GAMSTOP wasn’t available when I was struggling, but I wish it had been. Young people need free practical tools like GAMSTOP so that they can put blocks in place before things really get out of hand.
Young people need free practical tools like GAMSTOP to put blocks in place before things get out of hand.
How are you doing now?
I’m doing really well. I now want to support others who find themselves in a similar position and so I volunteer with the fantastic charity Betknowmore as a Peer Supporter.
Over 400,000 people have used GAMSTOP to take back control of their gambling. You can read about the experiences of real people who have found self-exclusion helpful here.