Death of Caroline Flack – Should Production Companies stop Reality TV Shows?

Feb 16, 2020

The tragic death of TV presenter, Caroline Flack, has left many in her industry, family and friends shocked.  We ask is it time to stop reality TV shows?

The reason behind Ms Flack’s suicide which was confirmed by her family lawyer, may have nothing to do with the job she resigned from on Love Island. Indeed it is more likely that she couldn’t cope with having to appear in court in a few weeks’ time related to a domestic assault charge, according to friends.

Domestic incident

In December last year police were called to a domestic incident in the early hours of the morning at an East London flat.  Ms Flack’s boyfriend, Lewis Burton, was allegedly attacked by her with a lamp but didn’t want to press charges.  However, the police charged her and the CPS went ahead with the prosecution.  Released on bail, one of the conditions was that she and was not allowed to contact Burton.

Just before Christmas last year application was made to drop this condition but it was refused by District Judge Julia Newton, at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.  Speculation has arisen whether this too could have contributed to her taking her own life.  The media that didn’t support her is now questioning whether the CPS should have progressed with the prosecution.  All things considered this seems rather hypocritical.

Media backlash

Since the news hit the headlines of this assault charge, Ms Flack lost her job on Love Island and the media has not been kind to her.  It’s interesting to note that The Sun online removed an article that it published on Valentine’s Day, one day before her death was discovered.  It featured a tasteless Valentine’s Day card with a caricature of Ms Flack and the text “I’ll f*cking lamp you”.

Caroline Flack had also been the victim of social media trolls which raises questions about the behaviour of some people online.  This coupled with the fact that ITV didn’t support her, despite her boyfriend not wishing to press charges, could have been another factor that contributed to her decision to take her own life.

It is clear that there was a disturbance at the East London flat resulting in the police being called. But we may never know what the argument was about.  Until the coroner’s hearing we can only speculate about her state of mind.

Suicides and mental health issues

This is the third death associated with Love Island.  In Series 2, 32 year old Sophie Gradon took her own life in June 2018.  Series 3 saw 26 year old Mike Thalassitis commit suicide in March 2019. And now Ms Flack aged 40.

It took one suicide on the Jeremy Kyle Show, that of Steve Dymond, to see the show axed.  He allegedly failed a lie detector test for infidelity but maintained that he was innocent.  In the aftermath of his death Jane Callaghan, his ex-partner, was trolled on social media accusing her of being responsible.

We have always held the view that lie detector tests should never be used for entertainment purposes. The polygraph is a serious investigative tool used by UK police, in security and many other industries. Polygraph examinations take place in controlled environments and for optimum results with only the subject present.

After the death of Steve Dymond, and the demise of the Jeremy Kyle Show, it was decided that Love Island would cease using the polygraph.  However, there is the wider issue of how mental health is affected by reality TV shows.

Stop reality TV shows

As qualified forensic psychologists we believe that the pressures put on participants and staff, do not warrant the loss of life and damage to mental health.  We add our voice to those calling for production companies to stop reality TV shows.  The broadcast of highly personal issues in front of millions of viewers attracts the worst type of social media activity.  If social media users like you, you are a hero. But if they don’t they can make your life a misery, causing depression, anxiety and suicide.  The mere hint of scandal for presenters on these shows attracts mainstream media attention.  Working on their well known premise of “good news doesn’t sell” the media is relentless in its pillorying of celebrities and public figures.

We send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Caroline Flack.  We have lost an excellent and talented TV presenter.

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