LOVE Island have revealed the details of their extensive aftercare system following outcry from former contestants after Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon's tragic deaths.
Former Islander Zara Holland slammed the ITV2 reality show last night, calling for it to be axed as she claimed that the programme "ruined" her life and producers offered her little support before, during, or after she appeared.
The show has come under renewed scrutiny after The Jeremy Kyle Show was cancelled following the suspected suicide of guest Steve Dymond just days after he appeared on the show.
Viewers have accused ITV of hypocrisy for going ahead with the new series launch of Love Island, despite losing two ex-contestants to suicide in one year.
A spokesperson for Love Island has disputed 23-year-old Zara's claims, telling The Sun Online that their duty of care consists of three key stages – pre-filming, filming, and aftercare.
Detailing the psychological support that is on offer before the Islanders are cast, we were told that the team work with both an independent GP and a psychological consultant to ensure that the shortlisted contestants's physical and mental health is suitable to take part on the programme.
The rep added: "The medical team also contacts each Islander’s GP to check they feel that person is able to take part.
"We ask for full disclosure from potential cast members to these health professionals so that so that we can support them appropriately.
"As TV producers, we rely on medical experts to assess both mental and physical health to ensure that each candidate is suitable for inclusion."
Once in the villa, there is a medical team on location – including a psychological consultant.
As well as being available to talk to at any time, they monitor Islanders to ensure "that there are no emerging signs of any problems developing whilst they are in the villa".
The rep added that "several" members of the senior team are also trained in mental health first aid.
Discussing the aftercare, the spokesperson told us that each Islander has "a series of debrief meetings on location with the executive team and the medical team, including the psychological consultant."
They are given advice on seeking professional representation to help them adjust to life in the limelight and meet with a press team who brief them on the press coverage they had while in the villa and advise them on what to do going forward.
In addition, Islanders are told how to access additional aftercare support if they feel that they need it.
After Sophie took her own life in June last year, producers further beefed up their aftercare system – contacting experienced physician and Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Litchfield to independently review the medical process that they'd had in place for the show.
Following his review, producers extended their support process to offer therapy to all of the Islanders – not just the ones who directly reached out for it.
A further overhaul will see future Islanders be given bespoke training on social media and financial management to further help them adjust to their new life in the limelight.
The rep explained: "The key focus will be for us to no longer be reliant on the islanders asking us for support but for us to proactively check in with them on a regular basis."
In addition to detailing their vigilant system, the spokesperson also addressed Zara's claims directly – including her complaint that she had her phone taken away and was left with nobody but a chaperone for 24/7 in the days leading up to the show's launch.
They explained: "Islanders are flown out to Mallorca a week or so in advance of filming as they go under 'lockdown', this is a period where they adjust to life without a phone etc. and allows the media to interview the new islanders without them knowing who else is going to appear on the programme.
"This is in common with many shows of this genre. To say that Zara had no access to music, radio or TV during this time is incorrect, she had a separate chaperone that was solely dedicated to providing her with anything that she needed 24/7 – and she had access to a gym, pool, beach etc."
The production team also visit the 'lockdown' contestants on a daily basis, with this time "carefully explained" in advance to each contestant.
They also denied Zara's claims that they refused her contact with her mum while she was in the villa, telling us: "Zara was passed messages from her mother whilst in the villa including that her mum wanted to speak to her, which Zara declined."
The spokesperson's comments come one day after top Tory MP Simon Hart told The Sun that Love Island should be DELAYED if bosses feel that they are unable to protect their stars.
Despite the fierce scrutiny, other former Islanders have previously spoken highly of the psychological support they received from the show.
Series two Islander Olivia Buckland shared: "I was in constant contact with the producers for a very long time. I got offered psychological tests when I got out. I got offered counselling when I got out. I got a list of agencies.
"Honestly, they really did look after me, and Alex. They always checked in with us, and I’m still good friends with them now. Love Island is there for you if you need them."
Alex Miller, who appeared in last year's series of the show, also revealed that a producer reached out to him and offered mental health support when they spotted a worrying Instagram post that suggested he had gone to a "dark place".
Meanwhile, Megan Barton-Hanson denied that ITV was responsible for Mike and Sophie's sad deaths, insisting: "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 added that he has always received help from producers when he asked for it, and series three's Olivia Attwood said that her experience has been "nothing but positive".
She continued: "I know that everyone from our series still stays in touch with ITV and I don’t think anyone is dumped and then chucked off the grid. They check up on you, they call you and they offer you counselling."
Tom Powell – who shared a series with Zara and Sophie – said: "They took care of us and anyone who says otherwise is talking bulls**t.
"After you leave the show you speak to the psychologist and you were always checking in with her. We had a lot of care after the show."
The Sun Online previously revealed that Love Island bosses had written a clause into this year's contract for the show that offers the stars' family support in addition to the Islanders.
Producers have extended the welfare section to the reality TV hopefuls' relatives to ensure that they can also get help during and after the series.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others.
You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
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