ITV boss criticises media for ‘simplifying link’ between Love Island and suicide

‘Mind and Samaritans tell the media constantly not to simplify links, and I’m afraid that’s what the media does’

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ITV’s chief executive has said she believes it’s irresponsible for the media to “simplify the link” between Love Island and the deaths of former contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis.

On Wednesday morning, Dame Carolyn McCall appeared on BBC Radio 4 Today to discuss ITV’s half-year results, which revealed that Love Island had significantly boosted the production company’s online revenues by 18 per cent, resulting in the broadcaster announcing two seasons will run yearly as of 2020.

Business correspondent Dominic O’Connell asked the ITV boss whether the hit show should have been cancelled following the deaths of Gradon and Thalassitis, both of whom took their own lives two years after appearing on the programme in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

“Should you be making [Love Island] at all, though, because you cancelled Jeremy Kyle after the suicide of someone who’d appeared on the show? Two former contestants of Love Island have committed suicide – what’s the difference between Jeremy Kyle and Love Island?” he asked.

McCall responded with criticism for the interviewer’s question, saying that while the deaths of Gradon and Thalassitis were “tragic”, mental health charities have been sure to “tell the media constantly not to simplify links” when an individual has taken their own life. “And I’m afraid that’s what the media does,” the ITV boss said.

Continuing, McCall said: “The two contestants, who were very popular contestants, Sophie and Mike, there was nearly a two-year gap [between appearing on Love Island and their deaths] for each of them and they did lots and lots of other things after Love Island.”

McCall added that she thought the subject of Gradon and Thalassitis deaths was a “strange topic” for O’Connell to raise during the interview, before later challenging the presenter by asking him if he even watched the “modern-day dating show”.

The chief executive’s comments come months after the cancellation of ITV talk show The Jeremy Kyle Show, following the death of guest Steve Dymond.

When O’Connell compared the cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show to the continued airing of Love Island, McCall said she “didn’t have the time” to go into detail explaining why The Jeremy Kyle Show was taken off air.

Prior to the start of this year’s series of Love Island, ITV announced that all contestants would receive a minimum of eight therapy sessions following their stint on the show as part of its new “duty of care processes”.

During the Today programme, the ITV boss was asked whether counselling is offered to islanders due to the presumption that appearing on the ITV programme will cause them “some harm”.

“We offer [it] because we think it is important when you come out of a villa after eight weeks... you are living a very different life,” the CEO stated.

“Coming back into the real world and adjusting to that real world can be quite difficult for some people.”

McCall added that Love Island is not the only ITV entertainment show on which contestants are provided with mental health support.

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Earlier this week, the father of contestant Curtis Pritchard – who is currently starring on Love Island – opened up about the counselling family members of islanders are offered by the production company.

Adrian Pritchard told The Daily Star that counselling is offered to him and his family whenever they’re in need of it, adding: “We can just ring for support at any time.”

Islander Amy Hart, who was romantically involved with Curtis during her time in the villa, told The Sun that she voluntarily left the show in order to protect her mental health.

The former airline stewardess praised Love Island‘s duty of care, saying that being provided with therapy gave her the “tools” to deal with the breakdown of her and Curtis’ relationship.

For mental health support, you can contact the Mind helpline by calling 0300 123 3393, texting 86463 or emailing info@mind.org.uk. The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am until 6pm, except on bank holidays.

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