Strictly star and mum Frankie Bridge is an inspiration for talking about her mental health issues

It’s hard not to love Frankie Bridge. The gorgeous The Saturdays singer is sweet, funny, and dancing up a storm on Strictly Come Dancing.

However, it’s not just her talents, vibrant personality and enviable wardrobe that have us loving the 25-year-old so much, we have a huge amount of respect for her for opening up about her battle with depression. 

As Frankie steps out on Strictly she is proof to people who suffer with mental illness that they can conquer their demons and find the strength to take on a huge new challenge. 

The singer usually performs with the support of four other girls and can comfortably share the spotlight. If she’s having a bad day or feeling nervous, they are there to help her. And if, heaven forbid, she makes a mistake she has four others to cover it up. 

Now Frankie‘s doing it alone. All eyes are on her and every step she takes. The pressure she is under is immense and despite being a performer, she’s completely out of her comfort zone.

As someone who gave birth less than a year ago, she has been thrust into another brand new experience. She is currently juggling training for Strictly, touring with The Saturdays and raising baby Parker, 11 months.

To appear on primetime TV without her girls to back her up is incredibly significant and proves to so many other people suffering from mental health issues that they too can come out the other side. And the best thing is – she’s totally smashing it.

When Frankie spoke about her own experience of the illness she showed that money and fame do not make you immune, and was an example to other young people struggling that you can cope and things do get better – but you need to seek help.

The early signs of Frankie’s depression started after she left the band she’d been in as a teenager, S Club Juniors. She put down her lack of motivation and struggle to get out of bed to ‘being lazy’.

Years later in 2011 when The Saturdays were ruling the charts and preparing for an arena tour she hit rock bottom.

When Frankie arrived for gigs in Ireland she says she immediately walked into the hotel, drew the curtains and went to bed. She managed to get through the performances but the whole time wished she wasn’t there.

She told Glamour: ‘Just before we left, I did one meeting with a competition winner. I was her favourite, so I had to go, and I remember putting on a fake smile before I left the room. I thought, “This isn’t right.” I was so self-conscious. Every time I spoke to someone, I’d be thinking, “They probably think I’m a horrible person. Am I boring them? Do I look ugly?” Finally, Mimi [The Saturdays’ doctor] suggested I go into hospital.’

Frankie Bridge admits she felt ‘ashamed’ going to hospital and at the time kept her bandmates and parents in the dark, only telling the man she would later marry, Wayne Bridge.

Speaking of her time in hospital, Frankie said: ‘I thought it would be really uncomfortable, with all the furniture tied to the floor! Of course, it was nothing like that. I was offered one-on-one and group therapy. I remember during one session the psychologist made me and this guy have a confrontation, because we were both struggling to express ourselves. It was horrible. I got the shakes, I felt sick. But afterwards, I didn’t feel too bad. Sure, I’d pissed the guy off a bit – he’d told me how he felt and I’d told him how I felt – but I realised that I’m not a bad person just because I disagreed with him. Usually, if someone disagrees with me, I literally shake. I start thinking, “I’m a terrible person”. I torture myself.’

Gradually Frankie began to feel better, and while there was no point where she was suddenly cured, she says she started to feel creative again and soon started to get through days without having a panic attack.

On coming out with her story, Frankie explains it wasn’t as daunting as what she thought it would be.

‘I was so nervous, because I was “Frankie from The Saturdays“. I didn’t know if people would be horrible to me and say, “You’re in a really successful girl band, you’ve got this great boyfriend; he’s got loads of money.” But nobody judged me. No one thought I was weird. No one thought my version of things was strange and wrong because it was different from theirs. I realised that there are so many different people, all different ages, who suffer from depression; some people, worse than me.’

Frankie admits that she was worried that she’d suffer with post-natal depression after giving birth to Parker, something that she luckily wasn’t affected by.

She said: ‘I’ve got another purpose to life now. It’s not just me. I want to be happy for Parker, I don’t want to be down around him. It doesn’t mean he’s cured me or anything, but it gives me something else to think about.’

Seeing Frankie Bridge on Strictly every weekend is proof that with the right help mental illness can be managed. People suffering should not feel ashamed or that they won’t be taken seriously, but like Frankie should ensure they seek a treatment path that will help them control their depression. There is no need to suffer in silence.

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Lauren Franklin