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Love Island announces increased mental health support for cast

Mental health is being prioritised in this year’s season of Love Island, as previous participants publicly reveal the pressures of being part of the show.  

It’s that time again.

The nation’s favourite guilty pleasure reality TV show Love Island is back for six nights a week this summer after being cancelled in 2020.

The seventh season will usher in major behind-the-scenes changes after receiving scrutiny for the psychological pressures contenders face while filming.

Ahead of this year’s run, ITV2 has announced contestants will receive ‘comprehensive’ mental health support throughout all stages of the show. This includes once they leave the villa to return to their newly-changed lives.

The islanders will have the option to attend a minimum of eight therapy sessions after leaving the villa, as well as social media training which will outline how to deal with potential negativity in online spaces. Advice on financial management and media training will also be part of the new protocols introduced for the new season.

Many leave the Love Island villa with thousands more social media followers than they had before entering.

While a fantastic opportunity to begin creating personal brands and businesses, the sudden spotlight can be understandably overwhelming, especially when those initial weeks on air are spent away from social media and public life.

The show received its most intense criticism after the death of two former contestants, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, who took their own lives after struggling with instant fame.

Several former contestants have revealed the extreme diet and exercise regimes they undertook in the months leading up to filming in order to be villa-body ready, describing it as ‘hideous’ and ‘restrictive’.

Viewers aren’t immune to these types of pressures, with 1 in 4 viewers surveyed admitting they experienced anxiety about their body image while watching reality TV.

Montana Brown from the 3rd season of Love Island wants to reassure viewers that what they’re seeing on the telly is not all what it seems.

‘Nobody looks like the girls on Love Island naturally’ she said. ‘People who are watching the show should remember those bodies aren’t ‘normal’ – there’s been a lot of hard work, gruelling fitness regimes and healthy eating put into them.’

Although national media exposure is what they’ve signed up for, when the show is over participants must then deal with returning into the public where they’re known by a lot more people – and not all those people like them.

Psychologists have pointed out that the main difference between Love Island and other competitive TV shows is that contestants aren’t judged on their skills, such as creativity, singing or dancing.

Instead they’re primarily judged by their fellow islanders (and the world) on their appearance and personality, which can have a ‘significant impact on their feelings of self-worth.’

It should come as no surprise that the villa becomes a pressure cooker for emotions and anxiety to run high.

Don’t get it twisted. It’s extremely entertaining to watch beautiful people catching a tan, discussing what Brexit means for the UK’s tree population, and getting into jealousy-fuelled arguments over someone they met less than a week ago.

But given the show’s track record of poor mental health post-production, combined with participant accounts of the pressure of being perfect on screen, the new wellness protocols seem like a necessary step.

These types of patterns extend across the entertainment industry, too. Although discussions about mental health are more prominent than ever, there appears to be a pattern of celebrities of all ages suffering from extreme mental health issues due to fame.

Chasing notoriety and acceptance on such a large scale is debatably detrimental to individuals. In the age of cancel culture, maintaining that acceptance has become even more difficult.

The list of actors, musicians, and fashion designers who have taken their own lives due to the highs and lows of the industry unfortunately continues to grow.

The good news is that media companies are recognising this pattern and creating solutions to make reality TV a little less toxic for those involved. Let’s hope Love Island’s newest efforts to change have positive, long-term effects.

 

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