The Jeremy Kyle Show should be taken off air permanently in the wake of the death of a participant, leading mental health experts have said, as they likened it to the practice of feeding Christians to the lions in ancient Rome.
The programme was the “theatre of cruelty” and should be dropped, said Sir Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and current head of the Royal Society of Medicine.
He spoke out after the programme was pulled off air by ITV following the death of a guest, named as 63-year-old Steve Dymond from Portsmouth. He had reportedly failed a lie-detector test on the programme.
“I think it should be dropped,” said Sir Simon, who is also a consultant psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital. “It’s the theatre of cruelty. And yes, it might entertain a million people a day, but then again, so did Christians versus Lions.”
The show alone would not be the sole factor in Mr Dymond’s death, but knowing it would be broadcast to a million people could have amplified any feelings of shame or guilt and could trigger a “breakdown”, he said.
“The idea that as the programme website says 'Jeremy is here to help' is stretching the verb 'to help' beyond any normal meaning,” he added. “It’s almost an offence under the Trade Description Act."
The tabloid talk show is based around guests attempting to resolve their issues with each other. Topic often include extramarital affairs, addiction and familial conflicts.
Meanwhile psychiatrists have said that production companies' duty of care to contestants must persist after cameras stop filming.
“I think there’s a general ignorance about the realities of mental health," said Professor Allan Young, a mood disorders expert at King’s College London. "But these are not uncommon disorders. The TV companies that are running a reality show should be thinking about the mental health everyone involved."
ITV has said it is reviewing the latest events, but it has already come under scrutiny for its handling of reality TV contestants after the death by suicide of two former Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis.
In a statement the broadcaster said The Jeremy Kyle Show has “significant and detailed duty of care processes” which have been built up over 14 years of the show’s history and include a an assessment after filming and call to check on contributor’s welfare.
ITV said staff were shocked and saddened at the news of a participant's death, adding: “We will not screen the episode in which they featured."
"Given the seriousness of this event, ITV has also decided to suspend both filming and broadcasting of The Jeremy Kyle Show with immediate effect in order to give it time to conduct a review of this episode".
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies