The psychological risks in reality TV and how aftercare should be done
Following the recent deaths surrounding participants on the Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island, Dr John Oates explores the psychological harm associated with the media spotlight.
The psychological impacts of participating in broadcast productions can be much greater than broadcasters and producers may realise. This was evident in the recent events in the UK surrounding The Jeremy Kyle show and the decision by ITV to axe the programme after the death of one of its guests. Children, vulnerable people and general members of the public can suffer long-term effects from participation in these kinds of reality show, and broadcasts can have serious unintended consequences not only for them but also for family, friends and work colleagues too.
Allegations from former participants of perfunctory screening question that have missed pre-existing mental health issues, alleged “wind up” methods in the Green Room to incite conflict before a show commences, have previously been reported . So-called “aftercare” procedures have also come in for criticism for being brief, or consisting of “phone calls from junior members of the production team” — testimonies that have also been supported by former members of the production team. All this seems to be evidence of systematic neglect of the most basic of moral principles: “Do no harm.”
The Jeremy Kyle Show isn’t the only reality-based show to come in for criticism about a failed duty of care by programme makers. Another series of the hugely popular ITV show, Love Island, is still in the works despite the suicides of two former contestants, Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon. On Twitter, former Love Island contestant Malin Andersson questioned the level of care given to people on the show: “Do we have to wait for one more death before other shows are axed? Or can’t we just put in some extraordinary aftercare in place to prevent any deaths from occurring ever again.”