Notes on News: Are Love Island producers doing enough to protect contestants’ mental health?

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Love Island has peaked in popularity this year with over 3.7 million viewers tuning in to the opening episode of series 5. But after the show has been connected to the suicides of two of its contestants and others have opened up about struggling with their mental health, it is no surprise that Love Island has come under scrutiny. This year the ITV producers have made some major changes to protect their contestants, but have they done enough?

As we all watch the 5th series of Love Island there is no doubt it is going to dominate our conversations this summer, sharing the show’s gossip and scrutinising the contestants. However, after the tragic deaths of ex-islanders Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, it is likely that our conversations will turn to scrutinising the show itself. After The Jeremy Kyle Show was axed just days after a guest committed suicide, why does Love Island get more allowances? Is it because the show is seeing the wellbeing of it’s contestants as a priority for the first time, or is it because of the show’s overwhelming popularity?

Back in May, before series 5 aired, Love Island producers announced that a new process would be implemented to protect contestants. It would include:

  • Enhanced psychological support
  • More detailed conversations with potential Islanders regarding the impact of participation on the show
  • Bespoke training for all Islanders on social media and financial management
  • A proactive aftercare package which extends our support to all Islanders following their participation

So far this series, this new process has been demonstrated after contestant Amy Hart was whisked out of the villa for psychological support after being left humiliated and heartbroken by a fellow contestant and half-boyfriend Curtis Pritchard. During this incident, the Love Island producers released a statement saying: ‘We take the emotional well-being of all the Islanders extremely seriously. We have dedicated welfare producers and psychological support on hand at all times who monitor and regularly speak to all of the Islanders in private and off camera, especially if someone appears to be upset. All the Islanders are therefore fully supported by the professionals on-site and by their friends in the villa.  This means Islanders are always able to reach out and talk to someone if they feel the need. We will, of course, continue to monitor all of our Islanders in line with our robust protocols.’

This series is also the first time that Love Island is refusing to air sex scenes in fear of ‘ruining islanders’ lives’. Previously Love Island has been infamous for its steamy under the cover sex scenes, and the lengths contestants go to not to get caught. A few days ago, Molly-Mae and Tommy shared a night in the hideaway – in previous years this would have been a huge moment in the series, however this year we were only shown a few seconds and then it was lights out and cut to the next morning. This is because the producers have taken the wellbeing of their contests more seriously. The call to prevent sex scenes being aired on the show comes after 2016 contestant, Zara Holland, lost her Miss Great Britain crown after having sex on TV. She claimed that this ‘destroyed her life’.

It is clear to see that the show is doing significantly more to protect the wellbeing of contestants, however, this isn’t going to solve all of its problems. We as viewers need to be considerate to contestants who are being thrown straight into the spotlight. After all, most of the mental health issues of the contests stem from the torrent of social media attention that the contestants are subject to after their time in the villa, so we should be mindful of the fact that our scathing words could spell disastrous consequences for the those on the receiving end.

As viewers, we have only seen the initial implication of ITV’s new robust wellbeing and mental health protocols whilst the contestants are in the villa. Once the show has ended and the relatively normal contestants are thrust into their new lives in the limelight as celebrities, it will be interesting to see how far ITV will go to protect their mental health and wellbeing, and whether or not we see a reduction in contestants coming forward with mental health issues linked to their time on the show.

For now, though, all we can do is enjoy the drama and hilarity of the show whilst remembering that our words on social media can have a hurtful impact.

Love Island is on ITV2 every night at 9pm.

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