“Love Island producers fail to prioritize mental health”
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 11, 2023
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Content Warning: This article discusses sensitive topics, including suicide, body image, and weight. Proceed with caution. Resources for help are available at the bottom of this page.
Last year, I stumbled upon Love Island and, to my surprise, found myself hooked on nearly every episode. Little did I know that I would later write a blog about it for the Mental Health Foundation, and now find myself compelled to revisit the subject a year later.
Over the past year, reality TV has come under scrutiny, exposing the lack of concern for mental health in these shows. Unfortunately, as the new 2019 series of Love Island approaches, it seems that very little has been learned.
TV Adverts: Exploitation Unveiled
Let’s begin with a silver lining. During last summer’s show, a cosmetic surgery company targeted young women and girls with online adverts, promoting the idea of the “perfect” body and encouraging them to strive for the “Love Island look.” This manipulation preyed on millions of teens and young people who already felt uncomfortable with their appearance.
Fortunately, after our complaint, the Advertising Standards Agency ruled that the advert breached advertising rules. Hence, we can hope to see fewer similar adverts this year.
The Lineup: A Missed Opportunity
In my previous piece, I highlighted the need for more diverse casting on Love Island. Mental Health Awareness Week, which recently took place, especially focused on body image. This presented an excellent opportunity for the show to make a positive statement by featuring contestants with all types of bodies. But disappointingly, it seems that this opportunity has been squandered.
From what we can gather, the island has been populated with bodies lacking curves, stretch marks, or scars. The producers perpetuate the myth that attractiveness is confined to a certain look. They wield the power to convey the message that a few extra pounds or some cellulite do not diminish someone’s desirability. Yet, year after year, they fail to seize this chance.
The Show’s Concept: A Troubling Landscape
It’s not just the cast that requires more thoughtful consideration; the show’s format itself demands scrutiny. Last year, the relentless pursuit of controversy and mentally taxing situations for the contestants was glaringly apparent.
Little did I know then that my concerns merely scratched the surface. Listening to Jonny Mitchell on the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast shed light on the jaw-dropping reality behind the scenes. It confirmed what I suspected: the producers showed little regard for the contestants’ mental health.
Mitchell himself struggled with body image issues, which he had communicated to the producers. Shockingly, they exploited these vulnerabilities by forcing him to read out statistics suggesting that only 12% of viewers found him attractive.
Mitchell appeared on the podcast soon after his friend and former Love Island contestant, Mike Thalassitis, tragically took his own life. While it is crucial to acknowledge that suicide is a complex matter, those close to Thalassitis believe that the show played a part in his decision.
As the 2019 series commences, I hope for significant changes, but deep down, skepticism lingers.
Why the Skepticism?
ITV claims that there will be psychological support available to contestants during and after the show. However, this response misses the mark entirely. If a show necessitates such extensive psychological support, it should serve as an alarming wake-up call for a reevaluation. Though there may be a place for Love Island, its current form is clearly inadequate. Unfortunately, it often takes tragic events like this, as we saw with the Jeremy Kyle Show, for people to take notice, and even then, the response falls short.
Instead of merely picking up the pieces, we must focus on preventing mental ill-health. Pushing individuals’ well-being to the brink should not be the norm.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feel unable to keep yourself safe, please call emergency services immediately or visit the nearest A&E (ER). You can also reach out to crisis resolution teams, composed of mental health professionals who assist individuals in severe distress. If the content of this article has affected you, please refer to our “Get Help” page for additional support.