The death of former “Love Island” contestant Mike Thalassitis has led to calls for the producers of this and other reality shows to take greater steps to ensure that participants are properly equipped to handle the effects of being in the spotlight – before, during, and after they appear on TV.
Thalassitis, who had been dealing with a recent family bereavement, was found hanged in a park near his home in London on Saturday in an apparent suicide. Police said they were not treating the death as suspicious.
Fellow participants on the ITV show and others who knew him paid tribute, and several criticized the show’s producers for not making better provision for contestants’ welfare. A wider debate is now underway in the U.K. about reality producers’ duty of care to people who appear on their shows.
“Love Island” sees a group of young contestants living together, dating and breaking up in a tropical villa. The ITV Studios-produced unscripted series has been a huge breakout hit for ITV2 in Britain. ITV Studios has sold the format widely, including a U.S. version being produced for CBS, giving the question of how to properly take care of contestants an international dimension.
An inquest is ongoing into the death of another former “Love Island” participant, Sophie Gradon, who was found dead at her home last June.
Former contestants Rykard Jenkins and Malin Andersson were among those who tweeted about coping with the pressures of being on the show. British actress Sheridan Smith said on Twitter that Thalassitis’ death should be a “massive wake-up call.”
Chris Hughes, who appeared on “Love Island” with Thalassitis, was among those to call on people to stop referring to him as “Muggy Mike,” a nickname he was given on the reality show. Thalassitis had also appeared in the E4 unscripted series “Celebs Go Dating,” which paid tribute to him after after the credits rolled on an episode of the show broadcast since his death.
Another former “Love Island” participant, Kady McDermott, said producers need to help people after they leave shows. “Hopefully going forward reality shows will help more with the aftermath of being on one, because I can say it definitely didn’t happen after my series, when lots of us needed it.”
ITV said it takes its duty of care for “Love Island” contestants very seriously. “We ensure that all of our contributors are able to access psychological support before, during and after appearing on the show,” it said. “The program will always provide ongoing support when needed and where appropriate.”
It added: “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.”