Shirley Ballas opens up about ongoing journey after brother’s suicide: ‘There’s more to me than the glitz and glamour of Strictly’ 

Shirley Ballas lost her brother, David, to suicide (Picture: ITV)

Shirley Ballas has opened up on her own experiences with mental health, following the death of her brother David by suicide. 

The Strictly Come Dancing judge, 60, has teamed up with CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) as an ambassador and hopes to use her platform to help others to talk about their feelings. 

In an interview with CALM, shared exclusively with Metro.co.uk, Shirley explained: ‘When my brother passed away he had a lot of challenges with his mental wellbeing and Strictly has given me a platform where I can talk about it a lot more. 

‘I feel like this is in memory of my brother and I’m excited to get people to engage and talk about how they’re feeling, but also to learn tools that can help people.’

Shirley added: ‘There’s more to me than the glitz and glamour that you see on Strictly Come Dancing. We all bear the same issues. 

‘Some people choose to talk about it, some people need to learn to talk about it, but if we can make it a safe place for people to communicate, then I think we’ll see a rise in people reaching out to others. 

Shirley wants to use the platform Strictly gave her to raise awareness but says she is more than the ‘glitz and glamour’ viewers see on screen (Picture: David Fisher/Rex)

‘I want people to know that it’s okay to talk to somebody. It’s not about giving advice, it’s just about being a listening ear.’

Shirley and her mother both found it hard to let go of the guilt they felt after David took his own life, but professional help made them realise they were not to blame for his death. 

‘You never get over losing someone to suicide,’ she admits. ‘People say “oh in time”, but every single day there’s a reminder. 

‘We had counselling because we felt we could have done more to save his life and since that process we’ve been able to talk about David, remember the good times and talk about him with great love.

‘Will it get easier? I’m not sure it gets easier, it just gets different. As a family we choose to keep my brother’s memory very much alive. He’s talked about constantly and we’re always sharing his story in the hope it will help somebody else out there.’

She hopes that she can now use her platform to help end the stigma around men speaking about their feelings, which she says David struggled with doing.

‘If you can, find someone to talk to who you can really trust. People find it embarrassing to talk about their mental health because there’s still a stigma around it,’ she says. 

‘When my brother died, he was a big stocky fella who didn’t want to talk and we didn’t know what he was going through. Now, 17 years later, we know a lot more about mental wellbeing which is encouraging.

‘Things are getting better and there are so many places you can reach out to now. You can reach out to charities like CALM, knowing they’re willing to listen to what you say in the strictest of confidence and at a time that’s suitable for you.’

Shirley finds putting on music and dancing helps her mental health, as well as crying when she needs to let the emotions out (Picture: PA)

Shirley also believes that admitting we all have bad days is key to getting through them, as people need to know they are not alone in feeling down at times in their lives and that help is out there when needed. 

She copes with her own grief by starting each day by putting on her favourite songs from the 80s and having a dance to help improve her mental health by getting her endorphins going, but also thinks having a good cry when you need to can be therapeutic to let go of those emotions rather than bottling them up inside. 

Sharing her advice for helping others to open up, Shirley suggests: ‘I’ve had friends who’ve been overly chatty and happy and then suddenly they start cutting off, so if there are signs that something is awry, then let them know they’re in a safe environment if they want to chat about it. 

‘It’s okay to share and actually it can be a relief because it’s not such a burden when someone is helping you. I feel like CALM are always there and they’ll guide people in the right direction.’

Need support? Worried about someone? CALM’s helpline and webchat are open daily 5pm-midnight. Get access here.

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