Life After Love Island - 16 Former Contestants Weigh In

When Mike Thalassitis took his own life in March, it galvanised a national conversation about mental health post-reality TV.
Life After Love Island - 16 Former Contestants Weigh In
CosmoBy Cosmo -

Beneath the filtered perfection of sun-drenched Instagram feeds, we are a nation in the grip of a crisis. Hidden, just out of view, often only visible when it’s far too late, is a particular strain of mental-health epidemic affecting those you’d least expect: those who seemingly “have it all” – status, money, social power and fame. Following a wave of high-profile suicides – including former Love Island contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon – the call to end the stigma that surrounds talking about your mental health has been heard everywhere from pub gardens to parliament.

But have we reached a tipping point? There are many, like Jane Caro – the Mental Health Foundation’s Programme Lead for Families, Children and Young People – who believe so. “There’s this tendency for people to post the happy, shiny, functional side of themselves and leave out the fact that they’re human,” she explains. “When someone’s in the public eye, that comes with increased weight.” There is, she says, a solution. And it’s as simple – and, at the same time, loaded – as speaking out.

“There’s something powerful about high-profile people sharing their vulnerability – the more we normalise it, the more we encourage others to speak openly.” With that in mind, we invited 16 former Love Island contestants to tell us how they’re really feeling, and what more can be done to ensure that tragedies like Mike’s and Sophie’s don’t happen again.

1. Samira Mighty

“On my down days, I lay in bed until 3pm thinking, ‘What am I doing? I hate my life. I miss having a routine.’ But talking helps – you often find other people who are feeling the same way as you.”

2. Dr. Alex George

“Mental health issues aren’t isolated to reality shows – any life-changing event or disruption can be a trigger. If you have a cold, you see a doctor, yet people wait until they’re crippled with depression before asking for help. That’s why I have therapy regularly.”

3. Marcel Somerville

“I hit a low last year [after splitting from fellow reality-TV star Gabby Allen] and if you don’t get what’s bothering you off your chest, it weighs you down. I talk to my mum or write music to deal with negative energy.”

4. Malin Andersson

“I have fought back from being in a dark place [Malin’s four-week-old daughter died in January], but when you’re in a suicidal mindset, you feel you have nowhere else to go. Please just text a friend, or find a way to divert your mind.”

5. Sam Bird

“Before Love Island, I had a regular job and routine. Now, I’m constantly put in situations outside my comfort zone and it’s the first time I’ve experienced anything akin to anxiety.”

6. Josh Denzel

“We sometimes ask people how they’re feeling without really listening to the response. After Mike passed away, I had a phone call with Jack Fowler and Wes Nelson and we said, ‘Boys, let’s never let it get to this stage. Let’s talk to each other.’”

7. Laura Anderson 

“I’ve always been confident and happy with my appearance, but now I sometimes think, ‘Should I put make-up on to walk the dog?’ which is ridiculous. Luckily, I have good friends who keep me grounded.”

8. Theo Campbell

“If you judge yourself by your bank balance or Instagram ‘likes’ you’ll never feel satisfied. I experienced depression when my athletics career hit turbulence – it felt like having a year-long hangover.”

9. Zara McDermott

“It’s easy to get caught up in the self-obsessed world we live in – we’ve lost touch with basic joys because we outsource our happiness online. It’s important to have a passion or purpose other than yourself.”

10. Grace Wardle

“When I left the Love Island villa, I hated the attention and shied away from it, instead taking stock of what’s really important to me – my hairdressing career and loved ones.”

11. Alex Miller

“I spiralled into depression when the work offers dried up after last year’s show. I thought about driving off a bridge, but I hid how I felt. Often there are no signs that someone is struggling, so check in on your friends.”

12. Adam Collard

“I was portrayed as a similar ‘character’ to Mike on the show – macho, a bit of a bad boy. Feeling like you have to live up to that can make it difficult to ask for help. I’ve started writing a daily journal, where you list what you’re happy or grateful for, or worried about.” 

13. Laura Crane

“I was bulimic for five years. As a professional surfer and model, I wanted to be skinny like other models, but needed to be strong for sport. Talking about mental illness can feel like admitting failure – when really, it’s the opposite.”

14. Tyne-Lexy Clarson

“I recently went on holiday and the comments [online] about how I looked in a bikini were horrible. You have to let it go over your head, otherwise it will shatter you.”

15. Charlie Brake

“What happened with Mike was a horrendous tragedy. Reality-TV stars like Tommy Mallet (from The Only Way Is Essex) speaking about their experiences [of depression] is helping to end the stigma.”

16. Charlie Frederick

“Often it’s easier to say you’re fine  even when you’re not. When you come out of a reality-TV show, your life changes, and not everybody deals well with that.”

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