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Britain's Got Talent magician says he turned his life around after feeling suicidal

Irish Mirror logoIrish Mirror 11/09/2020 Julie McCaffrey

Dazzling the Britain’s Got Talent judges with his mind-bending magic tricks, personal trainer Damien O’Brien oozed charisma.

And as the 2,000-strong audience rose to their feet, BGT impresario and judge Simon Cowell called him “unbelievably talented, very cool, very relevant”.

It was a big moment for Damien, who only two years previously changed his mind about auditioning as he was suicidal.

Damien, 35, says: “People might have seen me up there on stage looking confident. But behind the act has been a long, hard struggle.

“I was close to ending my life but was able to get help.

“I’ve hit my lowest but now I’m working hard to make my dreams come true.”

Damien, from South East London, believes his mental health problems took root when his aunt died of cancer at the age of 50.

He said: “She was like a second mum to me and I was always at her house because I loved being around her.

“Her loss was my first experience of grief and I didn’t know how to deal with it.” As he worked hard on becoming a magician, he had no colleagues around him and felt isolated.

He went to see his GP, who was very understanding.

Damien said: “My doctor really listened. He said I could call him any time of the day, promised he’d make time for me to see him whenever I needed to, and said I shouldn’t feel alone.

“Such care was just what I needed.

“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and referred for therapy, and the counselling really helped.

“My counsellor taught me things I could do to help myself. Now, on a down day I do things I like, such as taking a peaceful walk in the woods or doing a training session to get my endorphins going.

Britain's Got Talent is back © ITV Britain's Got Talent is back

“Most importantly, I’m now open about and can talk to people about my feelings.”

Performing in front of an audience and judges – including Alesha Dixon – seems a strange choice for anyone with anxiety, but he has been supported by a BGT counsellor.

Damien said: “This year, when I stood on stage for my audition I told myself, ‘Don’t think about how you felt two years ago. You’re here and in a better place’.”

David Walliams, Ashley Banjo, Alesha Dixon posing for the camera: BGT judges David, Ashley Banjo, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden © noholdenback/Instagram BGT judges David, Ashley Banjo, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden

He also gave a clue about his act for tonight’s semi-final. He said: “It’s the first time any magician has con­­­tinued a trick from exactly where the last one left off. What everyone saw in the first audition wasn’t the end.”

He performed at stand-in judge Ashley Banjo’s wedding to Francesca Abbott in 2015 but says there won’t be any favouritism. Damien said: “[He won’t] give me an easy ride and I wouldn’t want that. I just want a fair shout at trying to prove everything I’ve been through has been worthwhile.”

*Britain's Got Talent is on ITV today starting at 8pm.

If you're struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operates a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email Jo@samaritans.org if you'd prefer to write down how you feel. You are not alone.

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