It is being increasingly recognised and understood how a person’s mental health needs to be taken care of just as much as their physical health. Great steps have been taken to highlight the dangers that things such as social media can have on an individual’s mental health, with great emphasis being placed on educating children and teenagers on the risks it poses and what to do if they feel that their mental health is suffering.
However, there seems to be a gap in providing mental health support to those who are in the public eye, particularly those who find fame on reality shows and are flung into a different world with very little help or protection.
One reality show that has been in the limelight recently for the way it deals with the mental health of its contestants is ITV2’s Love Island. In less than a year, two people who had previously been on the show have committed suicide. Sophie Gradon, 32, who appeared on the 2016 series, and Mike Thalissitis, 26, who appeared on the show in 2017.
Miss. Gradon had been very vocal before her tragic death about the dangers that social media posed to her mental health with her new-found stardom, speaking at a conference about it just a week before she took her own life. This speaking out by her and then her suicide should have been enough of a wake-up call for ITV2 and the creators of Love Island to put support in the form of therapy and advice in place for contestants once they leave the villa and return to a new life with thousands more followers on social media and the interests of the press – particularly from tabloids.
However, this wasn’t enough of a wake- up call for ITV2. It took the suicide of Mike Thalissitis, that happened only a few weeks ago, to finally open their eyes to the role that they have played in these suicides and the duty of care that they owe to their contestants. They know far better than the contestants the level of scrutiny that they will be subjected to and the impact that this can ultimately have on their mental health.
Many of us know that men in particular find it very difficult to speak about their feelings, and it has undoubtedly taken Love Island and ITV2 too long to recognise this. Up to this point, their aftercare system has been that it will offer support and help to those who ask for it. Given that many feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about having negative feelings, anxiety or depression, those who needed the support the most would never get it. Now, they will offer therapy to all contestants, as well as social media training and financial management so that they can cope with any internet trolls they may encounter, but also so that they are able to handle their increased wealth sensibly and not leave themselves financially strained, as Mr. Thalissitis had.
Hopefully this will prevent any future contestants from feeling that their is no other option than to end their life, and that other reality shows will follow suit in making sure that they provide support to anyone who participates - even if they don't ask for it.