Reality TV has had a pretty firm shake up in 2019, with The Jeremy Kyle Show getting axed and fans questioning the future of Love Island after the tragic passing of two former contestants. In the wake of fan backlash, show bosses announced that behind the scenes the reality series would be stepping up support for contestants with new duty of care guidelines focusing on mental health and financial advice. And now the host of the show Caroline Flack has shared her thoughts on the Love Island's approach to contestants' wellbeing.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Flack expressed anger that fans had blamed Love Island for the deaths of Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis. "It's dangerous and I’m really, really angry," she told the publication. "It’s not just that you’re blaming a TV show, you’re blaming people and their jobs. In life we all have a duty of care to look out for each other, but I don’t think it’s fair to point fingers of blame. This is a much bigger issue than just a reality TV show, and when something this bad happens — and I’m talking about Mike — when something this horrible and sad occurs, it’s so dangerous to point fingers within hours and minutes of it happening."
Flack continued, "None of us know what’s going through someone’s mind and we can’t sit there and speculate. It’s time to think about the bigger picture, about what’s going on with young men and young people and the pressures of modern life." She also added of Thalassitis, who passed away earlier this year, that, "It’s just too sad and too sensitive to talk about. He was always a total gentleman to me and I’m going to be a total lady back."
Following Thalassitis' passing, fans unearthed interviews where he explained that he felt his best side had not been shown on Love Island which led many to criticise the way the show had portrayed him, including his nickname 'Muggy Mike'.
Ahead of the new season of Love Island bosses have updated their aftercare policy with the aim of giving contestants the support they need before, during and after the show.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the show said: "As the show has grown ever more popular and our Islanders get increased attention in an ever changing landscape, each series we evolve the support we give them. We have always recognised that this should be an evolving process and six months ago we engaged Dr Paul Litchfield, an experienced physician and a Chief Medical Officer, to independently review our medical processes on Love Island. He has extensive experience of working with large companies and Government in the area of mental health.
The statement continued: "This review has led us to extend our support processes to offer therapy to all Islanders and not only those that reach out to us. And we will be delivering bespoke training to all future Islanders to include social media and financial management. The key focus will be for us to no longer be reliant on the islanders asking us for support but for us to proactively check in with them on a regular basis."
Meanwhile, Dr Litchfield commented, "a high level of professional expertise has been engaged to provide comprehensive support not only while young people are actively engaged with the show but also for an extended period when they are adjusting to life thereafter."
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call mental health charity Mind on 0300 123 3393.