Entertainment & Arts

Zoe Ball says she is 'getting stronger' amid grief of partner's death

Zoe Ball Image copyright PA
Image caption Zoe Ball took up a cycling challenge in Billy Yates' memory

Zoe Ball says she is "getting stronger" after the death of her partner Billy Yates, who took his own life last year.

The BBC Radio 2 presenter has just cycled 350 miles over five days to raise awareness of mental illness.

"I'm a tough old cookie," she said. "My family have been through a lot.

"There are moments when you least expect it when grief catches you. But the main thing is I've found people who have been through this and are doing better. They've found some hope."

She added: "That's the biggest thing for me, that there is hope. Otherwise what are we doing this for?"

Image copyright Victoria Dawe/Sport Relief
Image caption Ball completed her cycling challenge on Friday

Ball was inspired to take on the cycling challenge following the death of Yates, a cameraman, last May.

She completed her long-distance journey on Friday, raising £500,000 for Sport Relief.

The 47-year-old told the Radio Times she has moments "when I can't believe any of this happened".

"I'm in the middle of this challenge and Billy's gone," she said, adding: "That never leaves you. That and the heartbreak, and the fact you couldn't save them.

"It's true for Billy's mum and dad and his sisters and friends, too. They are all in pain. Especially his male friends. The ripple effect is dangerous. It can happen again. It's scary."

The presenter said she knew Yates had lived with depression but "didn't know how to help".

She continued: "And then I have to stop and say, 'Everyone who loved him knew. None of us found an answer, none of us saved him'.

Ball's efforts in the challenge will be shown in BBC One documentary titled Zoe's Hardest Road Home on 21 March.

Advice and support

If you or someone you know are feeling emotionally distressed, these organisations offer advice and support:

  • Samaritans - available 24 hours a day for anyone struggling to cope. A safe place to talk where calls are completely confidential
  • Papyrus and HOPELineUK - for young people considering suicide or if you are concerned about someone you know
  • CALM - aims to prevent male suicide in the UK and offers anonymous, confidential listening, information and signposting
  • Lifeline - support to people suffering distress or despair in Northern Ireland, regardless of age or district
  • CALL - emotional support and information on mental health and related matters to people in Wales
  • Breathing Space - a confidential phone and web service for people experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety in Scotland
  • Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide - helps meet the needs and break the isolation of those bereaved by the suicide of a close relative or friend

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