SOCIAL media can be a brutal place – just ask a reality star.
Love Island favourite Olivia Attwood believes those in her industry get the most abuse from trolls, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.
Yesterday, the 2017 contestant was vilified for posting a tribute to tragic co-star Mike Thalassitis, who took his own life on Saturday aged 26 following a private battle with depression.
And in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Olivia — who is backing our Let’s Talk campaign to help prevent suicides — feels enough is enough.
She said: “When you’ve been on a reality TV show you become the public’s property. In my case on Love Island viewers had watched me for eight weeks — they feel like they know you.
“You’ve shown all these really raw and exposed sides to you and then people feel you’re fair game as you’ve put yourself in this situation by choosing to be on a show.
“You go from being a totally anonymous person and then everyone wants a piece of you. When I first came out of Love Island I went from having 25,000 followers on Instagram to a million.
“I was bombarded by people’s opinions. I found it very overwhelming.
“People feel that just because I was on a TV show they can pick me apart. That’s not OK at all. Something needs to change.”
Olivia, 27, briefly dated Mike during their time together on the ITV2 show.
Indeed, it was when Mike asked Olivia out that he earned the nickname “Muggy” from fellow Islander Chris Hughes, who Olivia was then partnered with.
Paying tribute to the late star on Instagram next to a picture of them from the villa, she wrote: “Literally don’t know what to say. Another one gone too young.
“Thinking of Mike’s family and friends at this horrendous time. You will be missed terribly.”
Yet she was branded “disgusting” and a “b**ch” by one troll who accused her of not saying enough about his sad passing.
Still shaken by the response, Olivia said: “Very few things get my back up but those messages really annoyed me. Don’t tell me what I need to post on my Instagram. What is this weird culture?
“For me it would have been wildly inappropriate to post anything more. Mike isn’t my ex-boyfriend and we weren’t friends after the villa.
“It would have been disrespectful to his close friends and family.
“You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. If I had done a big, long tribute, trolls would have said I was doing it for Instagram likes.”
Former Love Island stars have been in uproar over the lack of aftercare offered to contestants following Mike’s suicide.
Ex-Miss Great Britain Zara Holland, 23, who was stripped of her title after having sex on the 2016 series, told The Sun that reality shows should arrange weekly therapy sessions for Islanders for a couple of years after they leave.
But Olivia says she would not have attended a support group — and that any potential mental health problems need to be tackled before the start of the series.
She said: “It isn’t an aftercare situation but a ‘before care’. You need to be obligated to do a certain amount of therapy before going on Love Island to prepare you.
“You live in the villa for a very long time. You’re away for ten weeks in total including the lockdown period and you end up feeling institutionalised.
“Even though when I came out everything was crazy, I was ready to be free. If producers had said, ‘Once a week we are all going to get together at ITV and have a support group’, I wouldn’t have wanted to go.”
Of course, Olivia does not know why Mike took his own life. However, she insists it was not because of his nickname “Muggy” and claims it is “totally ludicrous to blame Love Island”.
She said: “People are angry and they want someone to blame. Mike was in turmoil and a lot of his problems weren’t to do with Love Island at all.
“He finished playing football and was doing nothing and went on to the show — I spoke to him about this — what would he be doing if he hadn’t done the show?
“Love Island will be back on TV in a few months. I wonder how many of the same people will be on social media ridiculing the new people on there?”
Olivia’s series of Love Island became the most popular show ever to be broadcast on ITV2.
An average of 2.43million viewers tuned in to watch Kem Cetinay and Amber Davies crowned winners.
The 2016 series final was watched by 1.3million, with megastar singers Adele and Liam Gallagher admitting they had become glued throughout the summer.
Olivia says producers warned the cast, including Mike, that even they were shocked by the show’s sudden success.
She said: “Series two was successful but our series entered a whole new realm that no one was prepared for and producers were honest with us about that.
“The night before we left the villa we had a big sit-down with producers and they basically said to us, ‘This has got way bigger than we could ever imagine’.
“When we flew back to the UK and there were thousands of people at the airport waiting for us, that was just surreal. No one expected that.”
There have already been calls for the show to be axed following Mike’s death. But Olivia credits the show for SAVING her life.
She said: “The year before I went on to Love Island I was on antidepressants and I had a really tough time.
“I was a model and had been panicking about getting older and I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do? I only have a few more years that I can milk this’.
“Love Island saved me. I got a lot of heat in the villa for the way I was but after I came out so many girls said how they related to me.
“I finally found this sense of self-acceptance that I never had before.
“I remember that I am living a seriously privileged life. Yes, I still have weeks and days where I’m not OK but I’ve learned to keep it all in perspective.”
SIX STEPS TO HELP SAVE LIVES
SUICIDE is the biggest killer of young people in the UK, with 1,600 Brits under the age of 35 taking their own life each year.
Following the death of Love Island’s Mike Thalassitis last week, The Sun has launched our Let’s Talk campaign to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
Backed by leading suicide prevention charity PAPYRUS – and all three major political parties – we want to encourage those who are feeling suicidal to seek help, and for friends and family to open up conversations if they are worried about a loved one.
Here chief executive of PAPYRUS Ged Flynn explains how you can help save lives.
- Look out for any behavioural changes. This might be as simple as your child saying “I love you” when they bid you goodnight. If it’s something they don’t usually say, then take notice. The person might suddenly go off their food, or they might be telling you they feel tired all the time.
- Approach the subject directly. Tell them you’ve noticed they are behaving differently. Remind them you won’t judge them and you are happy to talk about difficult subjects like suicide.
- Keep an eye on the person’s internet use. Some sites encourage suicide.
- Seek professional advice. Book an appointment with your GP.
- Remember to look after your own health too. If you are worried that someone you know may be in distress, it can be challenging. Self-care is important.
- Get professional suicide prevention advice in confidence at PAPYRUS HopelineUK on 0800 068 4141 or email [email protected]
By Kate Jackson
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