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George Shelley opens up about battle with depression following sister’s tragic death

The singer's younger sister Harriet died May last year a week after being hit by a car in Bristol.

By Will Stroude

George Shelley has opened up about his battle with depression following the tragic death of his sister in 2017. 

The former Union J star says his “life went monochrome” and mental health “plummeted” after his younger sister Harriet died in hospital in May last year a week after being hit by a car on a night out in Bristol.

Writing for the BBC ahead of a new BBC Three documentary about coping with grief, George has revealed how he has been taking and seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with the loss.

“Before Harriet, I’d never experienced grief… The night of her accident happened just a few weeks before she was due to move in with me in London. We were both looking forward to it so much. We couldn’t wait,” he said.

“After we lost her, my life went monochrome. It was stagnant; I was stagnant. I felt death everywhere. You think you’re alone, even though your family is going through the same thing. 

“You think, ‘How do I live? How can I do this? I don’t want to do this’.” 

Describing the pair’s relationship as “one of the closest” he’d ever had, he went on: “Harriet was also one of the first people I came out to. When I told her, she was like, ‘Yeah I know!’ It opened up a whole new conversation: all of a sudden we could talk – and give each other advice – about boys.

“My first boyfriend will always have a special place in my heart because she was close to him, and for her to have experienced me being in love with a boy meant so much.

“She got it; she was on my level with everything.”

25-year-old George, who who shot to fame as a teenanger on The X Factor in 2012, admitted that he struggled to re-adjust to everyday life following Harriet’s death.

“At first, I just wanted to do normal things and carry on with life,” he wrote. “I went out drinking, I went to festivals and I went on holiday when, really, I shouldn’t have. I was in a really bad place, and in denial.

“I lost my job, my relationship fell through and my mental health plummeted. I was living by myself – because I’d cut my friends and family out – and there was about a four-week period where I just stayed in my bedroom.


“I became agoraphobic and felt this extreme, heavy weight when I saw daylight. My days were just a blur of takeaways, Netflix and escaping with video games – anything to shut off from the real world.

“All I can remember from that period is darkness and I just sank deeper into depression.”

He added: “That’s the thing with depression: you can have all this colour, love, light and help around you, but if you’re suffering it just desaturates everything.”

George explained how by the end of last year he was a “mess” who had begun injuring himself after “punching walls in fits of rage.”

The ‘Technicolour’ singer says that excercise helped him to channel his pain and create an outlet for his grief.

“There are no rules when it comes to grief – it’s about doing what feels right for you,” he wrote.

“I’ve learnt that it’s important to allow yourself to feel vulnerable, to accept the crutches that work for you. I’m on antidepressants and I see a psychiatrist.

“There is no right way of dealing with this pain. You just need to know there is support out there, and to not be afraid to ask for it.”

He added: “Losing Harriet is something I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. But I can feel her smiling with me wherever I am. 

“Her birthday is Christmas day; my future kids will know it’s Christmas, but that it’s also Auntie Harriet’s birthday.

“We’ll keep saying her name. We’ll keep remembering.”

George Shelley: Learning to Grieve is on BBC Three iPlayer on 30 September.