'Gambling hell' Northern Ireland player 'thought of taking his own life'
An Irish League footballer has revealed he twice thought about taking his own life as he battled a gambling addiction and depression.
Michael Ruddy, a defender for Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership, was faced with spiralling debts when his betting got out of control in his teenage years.
But the 24-year-old (below), from Cloughfern in Newtownabbey, said he is now a doting dad to his one-year-old daughter Zelena and his gambling demons no longer haunt him.
Ruddy, who played for Ballymena United before moving to Ards in the summer of 2016, is a close friend of Crusaders midfielder Matthew Snoddy, who admitted in a BBC documentary that he contemplated suicide as he fought a gambling addiction.
- Footballer's Lives with Michael Ruddy: 'I've had a gambling addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts but I'm now stronger'
"We used to gamble together and when Matthew went up Carnmoney Hill thinking about taking his own life I found him after a few of us went looking for him. I'm not going to judge him, as I've been there too," said Ruddy.
"Before and after the incident with Matthew I've been in that situation.
"On two occasions suicidal thoughts entered my mind. It was hard to commit to anything because I faced debts. In terms of the worst day of my life, I've probably had two or three. The thought of suicide and not wanting to be here has been in my life as depression took hold."
Ruddy said his addiction was centred on roulette machines in betting shops, and online gambling.
"It reaches the point where the numbers don't mean anything and you're not thinking about money," he said.
"I started football betting when I was 17 and then moved onto the roulette betting. It gripped me and I got that desire for a quick hit - that adrenaline rush.
"It took over my life but it took me a few years to acknowledge I had an addiction. Whether I had one pound or a million pounds, I had to gamble it until it was all gone. I lost all value in money and it became dangerous, reckless behaviour.
"I've had to deal with a lot including a relationship breakdown, the unexpected arrival of a daughter and then fighting gambling demons too. It was no secret I attended Gamblers Anonymous when I was at Ballymena United, but I didn't break any rules."
Ruddy is keen to highlight the lack of support for those battling a gambling addiction.
"It's not taken seriously here by the Government or treated as an illness, which is sad," he said.
"I've been in changing rooms and there's gambling going on. The truth is if I hadn't had the right support from family I could be six feet under."
Ruddy added he is now in a "much better place" and hopes to leave his demons long behind him.
If you are affected by any issues in this article, contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000