I feel so desperately sad. As you must know by now, Mike Thalassitis, a 26 year old man from Essex who appeared on ITV’s Love Island 2 years ago was found hanged on Saturday morning. He committed suicide. Twitter is full of accusations today, mostly directed at the TV show who have stated that they will now do more for program participants. My view? We musn’t blame Love Island.
The problem with blaming Love Island for Mike’s suicide is that it prevents a really important conversation that we need to have – How did we arrive in a place where happiness equals popularity? What role do we all play in promoting the popularity myth? How can we better support each other? And if you felt suicidal, would you tell anyone?
What Could Bring This Young Man To Commit Suicide?
I know what it’s like to get to a point when you can’t find a reason to put one foot in front of another; to feel so empty that you’re not even sad, you’re just numb; to toy with the idea of ending it all. For me it has been post natal depression, twice and then what I refer to as ‘just came out of nowhere big fat bastard depression’. The name needs work…
Suicidal thinking can emerge from grief, physical illness, chronic fatigue, drug addiction, relationship trouble, a sense of no self worth, financial worry, any number of a million things. One way or another things get so unbearable that we think,
‘This would be so much easier if I could just sign off.’
Love Island has a responsibility to the contestants, no question. But are they to blame for Mike Thalassitis’ suicide? I don’t think it’s a question of blame. We have to hold this very sad moment, examine how we feel about it, shed a tear for a young man who felt that life was impossible and then look at those around us.
Love Island Is A Red Herring
Love Island is just another vehicle for a generation of young people who are searching for love in the public eye.
There’s a fixed image in the minds of many people of how their lives should look. So often this is informed by Instagram and its rose tinted filter. (That’s not an actual filter before you check your phone). It’s not surprising that so many young people race for the short cut that a program like Love Island offers.
Apparently the producers do tell the contestants how their lives will change as a result of the show. They give them information about the ups and downs of fame. You can imagine the contestants nodding, thinking,
‘Shut up and show me where I’m sleeping!’
The Authenticity Paradox
Love Island is a paradox: participants are directed (and partly scripted) to form ‘genuine’ relationships in order to win a prize. But the augmented reality doesn’t end there. Once the show is completed they are spat into a world of paid personal appearances in regional nightclubs, sponsored Instagram promotions and paparazzi waiting for a drunk photo opp. And that’s the good stuff.
I imagine that every young person who has appeared on one of these shows imagined something better at the end of it. (With the exception of those who finished top 3 maybe). Instead of love they found out just how fickle, brief and cruel fame can be.
Be The Change You Want To See
Let’s make a commitment to each other to be real, to be honest. When asked how you are, answer the question honestly and see what happens. If you feel crap then say it. I bet you will get warmth and concern in return.
Let’s promote the image of ourselves that we see in the mirror, not the one we would like to see. We help nobody by living a lie.
Let’s reach out and check in with the people around us. If we all do it then everyone on the planet will get a little nudge and a smile. Sometimes that’s all it takes to remind us we’re not alone. Occasionally we’ll get some much bigger answers that require our deepest resources of compassion and companionship.
Look at to the people you love, the friends you haven’t spoken to for a while and check in. It’s the easiest thing to do… How are you? … Everything okay with you? … You seem great but is everything really alright?
Let’s reclaim reality. It starts with us as individuals.