At this year’s Oundle Lecture, the Lower Sixth Form met Old Oundelian Patrick Foster (StA 2005) who shared a very personal story, beginning with his life’s most traumatic experience.

Just over six years ago he stood on the edge of a train platform thinking of doing the unthinkable: ending his life by suicide. He’d been battling mental health issues in secrecy for nearly 13 years, and had come to think there was no way to redeem the mistakes that he had made from his addiction to gambling.

While at Oundle School, Patrick was a success and very happy. He was selected as a prefect, he was popular, he did not get into trouble, and neither his teachers nor parents worried about him. He did not have to deal with challenges or failures. He said he was given every opportunity in life one could possibly imagine.

After school he spent a few years living his dream being paid to play cricket until he left professional sport to study at Durham University, where he also played first class cricket for the university. It was there, while on a night out with friends, that he was introduced to betting. A casual £2 on a roulette machine turned into £72 in a matter of seconds. Five hours later he had won a little bit more. That was the start.

After university he had a successful job in finance and then spent seven years teaching in two leading schools, but what no one knew was that he was gambling every day. Over the years he lost £1m and accumulated half a million pounds in debt. He risked his career, his home, his relationships and his family.

For years he recognised that he had an addiction, but gambling was not anything his family or friends did and he was too ashamed to admit it or talk about it with others. He didn’t know where to get help and didn’t think help was even possible.

It was on that train platform just six years ago, that a message from his brother saved him. He realised he needed to think about others, not just himself.

He emphasised to pupils that no one should think they can deal with a problem by themselves. Reaching out for help and telling people their problems is the best thing they will ever do.

Patrick now works to raise awareness of gambling addictions, and is an ambassador for The Mintridge Foundation, which aims to use sport and positive role models to help young people to develop confidence and resilience and to protect their mental and physical wellbeing.

He is the author of Might Bite: The Secret Life of a Gambling Addict.