Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson on Mental Health and Online Bullying

In a thought-provoking new BBC Three documentary, 28-year-old Jesy Nelson reveals her painful experience with online bullying which led her to attempt suicide, right at the start of her career.

Jesy Nelson
Jesy Nelson at the Brit Awards, 2017

The singer, alongside bandmates Perrie Edwards, Jade Thrilwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock, won The X Factor in 2011, but her newfound fame and fandom came with a hidden dark side.

“I had about 101 Facebook messages in my inbox, and the first one that came up was from some random man, saying: ‘You are the ugliest thing I’ve seen in my life, you do not deserve to be in this girl band. You deserve to die,’” Jesy says in the documentary.

It was devastating to Jesy, a bubbly and talented young woman on the cusp of an amazing career, who’d never previously had issues with body image.

“It became the worst time of my life,” she says. “I wasn’t just known as one of the singers in Little Mix, I was known as ‘the fat, ugly one’.”

Little Mix
Jesy and her bandmates, Perrie Edwards, Jade Thrilwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock, on stage

As messages like this persisted, during and after her time on The X Factor, she developed depression and an eating disorder. She avoided events where she might be photographed, and would dread big performances where her appearance would be scrutinised.

Speaking to The Guardian, Jesy reveals how obsessed she became with the criticism, actively searching for it online and not being able to register all the positive comments she was also receiving.

“I had a routine of waking up, going on Twitter, searching for the worst things I could about myself. I’d type in the search bar: ‘Jesy fat’, or ‘Jesy ugly’, and see what would come up. Sometimes I didn’t even need to do that, I’d just write ‘Jesy’ and then I’d see all the horrible things. Everyone told me to ignore it – but it was like an addiction.”

Eating disorders and depression often manifest in this way, becoming an addiction – fuelling themselves by forcing you to look for, or create, negative comments about yourself.

It all came to a head in 2013, when cruel comments about Little Mix’s returning performance on The X Factor led Jesy to make an attempt on her life.

“I was sat in bed crying, thinking, ‘This is never going to go, I’m going to feel sad for the rest of my life, so what is the point in being here?’,” she says in the BBC documentary. “I remember going to the kitchen and I just took as many tablets as I could. Then my ex, who was with me at the time, woke up and was like, ‘why are you crying?’ I kept saying, ‘I just want to die’.”

Jesy was taken to hospital, and thankfully pulled through without any complications.

While her story is heartbreaking and painful, it is also testament to recovery from depression and eating disorders. It was a long but successful road to recovery for Jesy, and of course she still has some darker days – but is now equipped with the tools to deal with them.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I feel shit in myself but instead of beating myself up about it and being miserable, I think: ‘OK, I’m going to have my moment of being sad, and I’ll be over it.’ Before, I didn’t let myself be sad,” she tells The Guardian.

“Now I’m mentally a lot happier, I just think people are always going to have an opinion. But I only care about mine.”

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out will be available on 12 September from 10am on BBC Three on iPlayer, and on BBC One at 9pm.

Anyone who is affected by Jesy’s story, or finds themselves struggling with mental health, should contact the Samaritans on 116 123 – or take a look at our list of amazing mental health charities in the UK.

Students, in particular, may find this infographic of benefit if they are struggling with mental health.