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I hated it: Paddy Barnes opens up about gambling addiction

Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes has opened up about his gambling addiction and the struggle to beat it.

The 31-year-old, who lost out to Cristofer Rosales in his WBC World Flyweight title fight in August, was yesterday announced as Sport NI's first Wellbeing Ambassador.

Speaking about his experiences with mental health issues, Barnes outlined his battle with an addiction to the 'rush' of gambling until he stopped two year ago.

“People were saying to me: ‘Are you serious, gambling all the time?’ It wasn’t really big to me," he said.

“I wasn’t feeling depressed over it or anything, it was more just frustration that I was addicted to something and I hated it.

“I’d say I wasn’t gambling again because I lost something, and the next day I was doing it again. I was always chasing. It was the thrill of it, the rush, more than the money.”

Barnes explained how telling his then fiancée and now wife Mari about his struggles helped him to find the road to recovery, having admitted he doesn't know how much money was lost to his addiction.

He said: “£100 is enough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s £1 or £100,000, it’s not yours any more, you’ve lost it.

“I was gambling and I talked to my wife, and then I stopped, but I started again. I knew I shouldn’t have been doing it. I was able to tell her I had a problem and once I did, I felt really relieved.

“I’ve stopped gambling for that long now that I never thought about going back, because I wasn’t enticed. It wasn’t in my thought process any more, it had just gone out of my head. I didn’t care about it any more."

Speaking on World Mental Health Day, Barnes also discussed the death of his former Olympic team-mate Darren Sutherland. The Dublin boxer had won a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 but was found dead by his manager Frank Maloney just over a year later.

“The personality he had, he was very outspoken, a great guy, very talented, very smart and that just shows it can strike down anyone," said Barnes.

“Sometimes there are no signs whatsoever, and it’s hard to read people to know if they have problems and they won’t talk about them. People won’t show their problems. You really don’t know what’s going in someone’s background.

“I’m going to use this position to help get rid of the stigma that if you’re seen to be tough or masculine, that you can’t talk to anyone.

“It’s ok not to be ok. Just talk. Because as soon as you talk to someone about your problems, it takes a weight off your shoulders.

“It (depression) doesn’t discriminate whether you’re upper class, middle class or working class. It’s an illness that can strike anyone at any time, and people need to be aware of that fact.”

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