Must the Show Go On? Why ‘Love Island’ U.K. Should Consider Staff Mental Health (Column)

'Love Island' host Caroline Flack
James Gourley/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Love Island” has returned to U.K. TV screens after the death of former host Caroline Flack. Having witnessed her life splashed across headlines over the past few months, it’s hard for anyone not to be affected.

For those who knew her, this is a horrific period playing out under a harsh media spotlight. Everyone has an opinion, people are demanding change, and I hope it comes. But we must also ask whether “Love Island” should be back on air.

When ITV revealed the show would be returning, Piers Morgan weighed in to announce Flack “would want it to continue.” Meanwhile, ITV television director Kevin Lygo reiterated that Flack “loved ‘Love Island’ and was very vocal in her support of the show.” Their comments were a resounding cry of “The Show Must Go On!” and advocating the belief that, in our industry, it is noble to continue the great work in the face of hardship.

Sadly, we can’t know what Flack wanted, and to say we do is a platitude that serves to justify other people’s feelings rather than the individual in question.

What no one seems to be considering is whether or not it is in the interests of the “Love Island” team to continue the show so quickly. In the same week that The Film & TV Charity released findings of the most extensive research around the mental health of our work force — The Whole Picture Project — there has been little thought for the crew and their own mental health.

Can the show go on? Yes. Will the show go on? Yes. But whether the show should go on is the real question.

Grief is a powerful thing and should never be underestimated. Suicide is emotionally violent to anyone affected, and the “Love Island” team are experiencing loss under immense scrutiny.

The Film & TV Charity’s recent findings reported that in the entertainment industry, the ability to raise your hand and say “I’m not ok” is hard to do. The fear of not being employed, letting people down and causing trouble all prevents people reaching out. We are taught, regardless of our own health, that the show must go on.

According to the findings of The Whole Picture Project, only 7% of people in the business would tell a manager about their mental health. That reduces to 2% among freelancers.

When considering that 55% of the industry have contemplated suicide and 10% have attempted suicide, it seems irresponsible to let this team continue working in this intense “Love Island” bubble so soon.

The feelings that suicide brings up and the grief it causes are powerful, damaging things. Any member of that team, especially those who have worked with Flack, are affected.

I’ve worked in this industry for 10 years, and I’ve worked hard. I’ve worked the same afternoon my presenter, a man I had looked after every day for three months, died. I’ve said I was fine. I’ve smiled. I’ve attempted to take my own life and showed up to work the very next day in case my contract wasn’t extended. I speak from experience I didn’t wish I have.

This is a moment for Lygo, ITV, and the broadcaster’s Mental Health Advisory Board to send a message about mental health to the entertainment industry. Put your staff, your freelancers and your contributors before ratings and profit. Let them know there is support if they are struggling and that you take suicide seriously, and they are allowed to step away from a project without fear of never being employed again. Sometimes, the show doesn’t have to go on.

Davey Shields is a TV freelancer, TV and mental health trainer and founder of MenTalkHealth.