Former Bachy, Big Brother & MAFS Stars Are Speaking Out About The Cost Of Being On Reality TV
Content warning: This article discusses suicide.
The sudden death of Love Island UK contestant Mike Thalassitis has sent reverberations throughout the reality TV world this week.
He was only 26-years-old and was known by most of Brits as “Muggy Mike” – a nasty nickname bestowed upon him when portraying him as the series’ villain. His death was deemed “unsuspicious” by police and his body found close to his home in Essex.
A good friend of Thalassitis during his time on Love Island was Jonny Mitchell who wrote for The Guardian “The death of my mate Mike Thalassitis shows that reality TV is costing lives“. The sudden death follows another former Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon who died by suicide in June of last year.
The news of Thalassitis’ passing prompted The Bachelorette’s Todd King to share a series of Instagram stories over his experience on reality TV and what we didn’t see on our screens.
We spoke to the Bachy star who, despite being a series fave, has struggled with the messages he was bombarded with.
“The criticisms came, even for me. I remember people saying that my tears were fake and I overreacted. To that I say ask my ex about when we broke up, I was emotional then as well. It’s still hard to know whether women like me for me or because I was on TV – something I got blindsided by in my first dating experience post-show. She was only interested in a good story to tell her mates,” he said.
“One thing men often find it hard to do is to seek help. It contradicts the toxic idea of masculinity – a terrible ‘she’ll be right’ attitude.”
King went on to say that even some of the friendships he developed during the season have faltered and were only ever artificial.
“Boys from my season who were nice enough to my face but then slandered me when I wasn’t around. Which is all the time because I’m isolated from the ‘glam’ influencer lifestyle prevalent on the East Coast. Needless to say, our ‘friendship’ was fleeting.”
In 2013 Big Brother contestant Tully Smyth found herself under national scrutiny for cheating on her partner with fellow housemate Anthony Drew.
In light of Thalassitis’ passing, she posted to Instagram about the toll it took on her mental health.
“Mike Thalassitis’ death has been sitting heavy in my heart all week. Why? Because I remember being in a similar dark place back in 2013 and that terrifies me.”
View this post on Instagram
WE NEED TO TALK. Mike Thalassiti’s (Love Island) death has been sitting heavy in my heart all week. Why? Because I remember being in a similar dark place back in 2013 and that terrifies me. THERE NEEDS TO BE A CHANGE. Reality TV isn't going anywhere, in fact it's only growing in popularity. With every new show that pops up, every new season of The Bachelor or MAFS…I feel this sense of doom and panic. A sense of responsibility. Something maternal inside of me screams out and I just want to protect the people who are about to have their lives changed forever. Warn them. Prepare them. Support them. THE NETWORKS NEED TO DO MORE. The networks and producers…the show psychologists and PR teams need to do more in terms of supporting these people. They need media training, BEFORE filming commences. They need better psychological testing. There needs to be greater responsibility and care taken with editing, regardless of ratings. The contestants welfare needs to come first, ALWAYS. HOWEVER PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANTLY… There needs to be more support offered after the show ends. Compulsory psychological support. Weekly check up's. 24/7 access to a professional, unrelated to the show or network. Then monthly face to face appointments ensuring the ongoing mental, physical and emotional stability and happiness of each and every single one of the contestants. Even those you may think don't need it. Because let me tell you, they do. AND FINALLY… We the public, the viewers, need to remember we're watching a TV show. A heavily edited, produced program designed for ratings and our entertainment. Whether we agree with what we're watching or not- their actions and reactions- they are real people. They are someone's sister or brother, husband or wife or child. None of us know these people in real life. None of us are perfect. We are all human. So be smart. Be kind. Think before you type, troll, attack and share. TO MY REALITY TV FAMILY… Please remember: “The people that mind, don't matter and the people that matter don't mind.” My door is always open if you need a chat. Please reach out. 💙 #YoungBloodSocialForGood
“The networks and producers… the show psychologists and PR teams need to do more in terms of supporting these people. They need media training BEFORE filming commences. They need better psychological testing. There needs to be greater responsibility and care taken with editing, regardless of ratings. The contestants’ welfare needs to come first, ALWAYS.”
Tully went on to say that not enough is done for contestants when their time on TV is over and they have to handle the aftermath of constant trolling.
“There needs to be more support offered after the show ends. Compulsory psychological support. Weekly check-ups. 24/7 access to a professional, unrelated to the show or network. Then monthly face-to-face appointments ensuring the ongoing mental, physical and emotional stability and happiness of each and every single one of the contestants. Even those you may think don’t need it. Because let me tell you, they do.”
SELF LOVE AND RESPECT AND POSITIVITY ETC ETC ETC 2019 YOU’RE GOING TO BE GREAT. ✨✨ pic.twitter.com/V134V5Nu49
— Tully Smyth (@tee_smyth) January 10, 2019
Tully also appealed to viewers to think before they send nasty messages or troll contestants.
“We the public, the viewers, need to remember we’re watching a TV show. A heavily edited, produced program designed for ratings and our entertainment. Whether we agree with what we’re watching or not, they are real people,” she wrote.
“They are someone’s sister or brother, husband or wife or child. None of us know these people in real life. None of us are perfect. We are all human. So be smart. Be kind. Think before you type, troll, attack and share.”
In reply, The Bachelor’s Alex Nation wrote “This resonates with me so much,” while Married At First Sight star Sarah Roza shared a similar experience during her time in the last season.
Roza wrote: “Honestly so much more needs to be done. There are no check-ins, no reimbursement, no care factor. I’ve literally spent a very considerable amount of money getting help for myself post-MAFS… But I did it because I had to. I needed it. It was the healthy & logical thing to do to seek professional help, advice & assistance,” Sarah commented.
“I wasn’t going to wait around for them to provide it, even after requesting it on many occasions, because it never was coming even though they’ve given their promised duty of care enough lip service to last a lifetime!
“With what I endured behind the scenes & after filming I just thank God each & every single day that it all actually happened to me instead of a more fragile person because the consequences would have been catastrophic,” Sarah wrote.
King said that before joining any reality show, people need to do the research to prepare themselves and decide whether it’s right for them.
“I chose to behave responsibly and carefully consider my wording [on The Bachelorette]. Others were nonchalant with their off-the-cuff comments. You’ve got to understand what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up,” he said.
“Just watch an episode or two before you sign on the dotted line.”
If you need support, both Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 offer 24-hour assistance. For further information about youth mental health, both headspace and Reach Out can provide guidance. You can also talk to a medical professional or someone you trust.