Shooting reality stars face a crisis on the way down

Amy Donohoe

Reality TV is an important part of popular culture with over millions tuning into shows like Love Island and The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE).

However, recently psychologists and producers of the shows have stated that the industry must do more to protect contestants who receive a lot of attention during and after the experience.

After the death of the former Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis, members of production teams said contributors often have no idea of the mental health risks associated with sudden fame and called for the risks to be addressed. His death follows the suicide of the Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon.

Several of their co-stars have spoken out since their deaths, highlighting the lack of care and support people are given after appearing on these shows.

ITV announced that they would be reviewing the amount of support it provides to Love Island contestants who struggle to adjust to their new-found fame, after Thalassitis’s death. The production team said they’re looking at getting the best support for individuals, focusing particularly on helping them to deal with their instant social media fame.

“In the media, it’s not just reality shows whether it be The Late Late Show, Today with Maura and Daithi, This Morning…there’s always stories being generated by viewer’s responses, from what Holly Willoughby wore, from what Piers Morgan told Susanna Reid, there’s always stories being generated by the public…what we’re writing about is what you at home are saying,” RSVP showbiz journalist Michelle Townsend explained to The College View.

“Then there’s the argument that with some reality shows, it’s a completely different ball game when it comes to Love Island and Big Brother considering [the cast] are not famous or not well known and they suddenly become very famous. With the media, a lot of the stories that are being written a lot of that is what’s being said online. It is a problem,” she added.

“I can’t really offer professional advice, but when they have to go back to reality, I don’t really know how I’d deal with it. I know the likes of ITV have counselling services. Olivia Attwood who was on Mike’s Love Island, she made a point that maybe offering counselling before going on the TV show to see if you’re emotionally mature enough to cope with it,” she concluded.

Celebrity psychologist, Dr Arthur Cassidy, has witnessed over the 20 years of the rise of reality TV. He stated that there has been a rise of his clients dealing with suicidal feelings, self-harming, body dysmorphia and anxiety. He worked on shows like Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! and runs a suicide-prevention clinic in Northern Ireland, the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program. He stated that deaths are more likely if legislation isn’t introduced for increased safeguarding of vulnerable young people on television.

Many reality stars come from low-income families, some of them are unemployed and they are attracted to reality TV as it promises money quickly and to improve their self-image without understanding the negative impact of in becoming a celebrity.

When reality stars leave their shows there’s the pressure to keep promoting themselves on social media. Reality TV can threaten an individual’s sense of identity because they can’t be themselves anymore and may feel obliged to keep up an ‘act’ after the show ends, with little or no guidance left when a new season begins airing.

Amy Donohoe

Image Credit: Chronicle Live & USA today