This weekend, former Love Island host Caroline Flack was found dead from an apparent suicide at the age of 40. Flack had a long career in television stretching back to 2002 and had been a fixture of the British tabloids. Her relationships and personal struggles were, at times, highly scrutinized.
In the wake of her suicide, many fans have begun to place blame on both the media and reality television for the psychological damage they may have caused Flack, and some have even begun to petition to enact new laws to protect television stars from harassment.
Both fans and experts have noted that reality television tends to have a negative impact on the mental health of its stars and contestants, and a recent study found that 38 reality show stars had died from suicide since 1986. One highly publicized recent example came in 2019 when a man named Steve Drymond took his own life after his appearance on British tabloid show The Jeremy Kyle Show; Drymond had appeared on the show for a lie-detector test that ended up destroying his engagement.
Over the course of the show, two other Love Island stars have also died from suicide: Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis. In both instances, the online harassment which followed their appearances on the show was thought to have played a role in their poor mental welfare. In her final interview, Gradon had remarked on the scrutiny she experienced, saying, “there would be so many negative comments. They are commenting on the way you look, the way you talk. They would come up with an opinion of you on a TV show where they’ve watched you for 45 minutes.”
In response to Flack’s death, a new online petition has recently gained over 500,000 signatures calling for greater restrictions on media scrutiny for television stars. The petition calls for a new policy called “Caroline’s Law” (named after Flack), which would make it “a criminal offense, not dissimilar to Corporate Manslaughter, for the British Media to knowingly and relentlessly bully a person, whether they be in the public eye or not, up to the point that they take their own life.”
Implicit in the petition is serious blame placed on the press for their treatment of Flack.
Late last year, Flack had been dropped from Love Island due to being charged with assault. Fans believe that scrutiny over the incident had caused injury to Flack’s mental health. The petition notes that, “sections of the media were quite happy to drag her life through the wringer purely in order to sell a few more papers.”
In addition to the petition, many have also called for the cancellation of Love Island, due to the poor history of mental welfare exhibited by its stars once they leave the show.