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Love Island: What are the mental health tests contestants go through – and who is really looking after their welfare?

Love Island’s Shannon Singh from Fife made an impression on her fellow islanders and viewers. But how do hit reality TV programmes prepare contestants for life in the limelight and beyond?

And how will Shannon – who suffered online bullying ahead of the show – cope with the pressure outside the villa?

Contestants had to undergo psychological assessments and screening – the strictest ever according to reports – before getting the green light to appear in the show’s seventh season.

Denise Freeman is a counsellor, psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. She provides advice to TV and film companies, helping them support the mental health of actors, contributors and wider crew.

Denise Freeman.

Denise says: “Big organisations have in-house teams with psychologists and psychiatrists they use regularly and sometimes they’ll bring in an aftercare team.

“Independent production companies will bring on someone like myself. I might be asked to support on set, or provide therapy and post-production support which is increasingly common.”

‘We’re listening and looking at body language’

Denise continues: “It falls down to a duty of care. We have to have ways of measuring a person’s resilience and state of mind to participate in these shows.

“A good psychologist is needed: we’re not just listening to answers, but we’re looking at other things such as body language.”

The islanders celebrate their first night in the villa.

A clinical assessment, an evaluation of the person’s physical, mental, psychological and cognitive state of being, is also carried out.

“We’re also looking at elements of risk – tests to identify anxiety, depression or PTSD, for example, as well as their learning style, interests and beliefs, because you’re working from a brief of the sort of contestants they want on the show,” says Denise.


Love Island psychological assessments

This year’s psychological assessments prior to casting are reported to be the most rigorous yet.

ITV, who came under fire following the deaths of previous Love Island contestants, says it has various support measures in place including:

  • Registered mental health professionals engaged throughout filming and aftercare to provide support to contestants when needed.
  • Psychological and medical assessments including reports from each islander’s own GP.
  • A senior team on the ground trained in Mental Health First Aid.
  • A welfare team dedicated to islanders during and after the show.

Mental health toll

Questions have been raised about the impact on body image, anxiety and online trolling across the show’s seven season run.

The formats of some reality TV shows – where contestants are lined up, compared to others and picked based on looks – run the risk of creating self-esteem issues, especially where rejection is witnessed by a large audience.

The Love Island girls line up ahead of the first ‘coupling up’.

Denise says: “Rejection can really bring up issues that have been lying dormant for some time, such as eating disorders or self-harm.

“It’s the labelling as well: people become known as ‘the guy who cheated’. You’re defined by an action you made or what is perceived as a mistake.

“So it’s important to have someone on hand to manage that and work through issues with contestants.”

Trolling and online abuse

Speaking the week before she entered the villa, Shannon Singh said she had already suffered online bullying, trolling and racism.

“Social media has given people a voice and it’s not necessarily a nice one.” she said. “I’ve already got a thick skin. That doesn’t mean to say it’s not going to get to me sometimes.”

Online abuse has real consequences on the individual before and after filming, says Denise: “It can really affect the way you interact with other contestants and can stop you from being your authentic self.

“To go in knowing you have been ridiculed or trolled or have been subjected to racist abuse, it’s going to be difficult to be yourself, especially with the racism: you can become quite secluded and withdrawn.

“So it’s important to have someone on hand to manage that and work through issues with contestants.”

What happens after the show ends?

Current aftercare for Love Island contestants includes bespoke training on dealing with social media. They also get advice on finance and adjusting to life back home as well as a minimum of eight therapy sessions and extended contact if needed, says ITV.

Fifer Shannon Singh entered the villa on Monday.

Denise continues: “Most importantly it’s about aftercare. That part is so often forgotten. It needs to be really thought through – this is when contestants really struggle the most.

“I try to prepare people as well as I can for afterwards, when there’s a bit of a slump.

“All I can hope is production companies see this as integral to a production and they put enough money in so there are people to support contestants afterwards.

“How a person will cope and deal with that will depend on how resilient they are. Fundamentally, it’s just important they have a person there to talk to about it.”

Love Island is a fun show that provides us with an escape from daily life. But behind the screen is a group of real people with feelings and vulnerabilities just like the rest of us.

For more information about the services Denise can provide, email  enquires@realfocustherapy.co.uk

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