Former Love Island contestant Jonny Mitchell has gathered more than 66,000 signatures after setting up an online petition for participants to receive better aftercare, following the death of his co-star Mike Thalassitis.
On the Change.org petition, which was set up on Monday, Jonny calls on ITV Studios, who make the show, for “a new duty of care”, suggesting that “there needs to be a compulsory set-out aftercare scheme in place for people who are going on reality TV shows”.
The show’s current aftercare system has been criticised by many former contestants, since Mike was found dead in a park near his home on Saturday at the age of 26. His death followed that of series two participant Sophie Gradon in June last year.
Writing about his own experiences with Love Island’s aftercare process, Jonny, who appeared on the third series alongside Mike in 2017, claims: “I remember having to meet the show psychologist twice before filming started and there was always a high amount of interest around my mental health from the producers (because obviously they don’t want to risk someone having a meltdown on the show), but after the filming stops you have no help or aftercare to help you cope with the world waiting for you.
“I probably got trolled more than most coming off Love Island and luckily it never fazed me, but not once did I get any contact from the show asking me if I needed any help dealing with any of it.”
He continues: “For younger people going into that environment, being shot to fame literally overnight and then being cut loose to try and handle what’s waiting for them all alone is just wrong, and it’s something that these reality shows need to take into account.”
A representative for the ITV2 series previously told HuffPost UK that the care of contestants is taken “very seriously” and it is “a continuous process for all those taking part in the show”.
“We ensure that all of our contributors are able to access psychological support before, during and after appearing on the show,” a spokesperson said. “The programme will always provide ongoing support when needed and where appropriate.
“We also discuss at length with all of our Islanders, before and after the show, how their lives might change and they have access to support and advice to help with this.”
HuffPost UK has contacted ITV for further comment in light of Jonny’s petition and is awaiting a response.
Jessica Shears, who took part in the third series, was just one of the show’s former contestants to speak out about the issue of aftercare after Mike’s death, claiming they were “out of sight, out of mind” the “minute you get home and are no longer making them money”.
Her husband, Dom Lever, added that while they received psychological evaluations before and after the show, they “don’t get any support unless you’re number one”.
Meanwhile, series two participant Malin Andersson noted that she received no support from the team after the deaths of her mother and her daughter, adding: “Change needs to happen”.
However, series four’s Megan Barton Hanson has insisted she “doesn’t blame ITV”, telling The Sun: “When I came out of the villa ITV sat down with me and went through everything that had happened to make sure I was prepared.
“I don’t blame ITV for any of this – they’ve been amazing. They are in regular contact and whenever anything difficult happens they make an extra special effort to check in on you to see if you’re OK. I’ve got the number of the show’s psychologist in my phone and I know I can call her whenever I need to.”
Dr Alex George has also said: “I can only talk about my own personal experience of course, and I’ve felt that when I’ve asked for help, I’ve received it.”
Speaking at The Spectator Health Summit on Monday, he said: “The sudden exposure to massive fame, I suppose, can have significant impacts on people and I think that it is a duty on any organisation that is putting people in the position of making them famous overnight, that they should also look after them afterwards.
“I think that people need to take responsibility for their duties to people’s well being very seriously.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.