Monday 18 December 2017

Jack Hurley: It's sad to see Helen Flanagan's meltdown on I'm a Celeb. But the reality of mental illness is sadder

Helen Flanagan. Photo: PA
Helen Flanagan. Photo: PA

It's a story so familiar as to be routine: Someone with a history of mental health problems becomes unstuck following a stint on a reality TV show and the call goes out that the signs were all there, the producers must have known this would happen and that the person in question should never have been allowed to take part in the first place.

In this latest case, I'm A Celebrity contestant Helen Flanagan revealed in a magazine interview prior to jetting off to the jungle, that panic attacks and depression had been one of the main reasons she left her role on Coronation Street. She’s now reportedly finding the transition back to the real world particularly difficult.

As a former mental health professional, I’ve taken a particular interest in the debate as to whether people who are - rightly or wrongly - considered 'vulnerable' should take part in reality TV shows. It seems to have chuntered on for the best part of a decade without ever quite resolving itself. On the one hand, it's glaringly obvious that placing anyone under 24-hour surveillance, depriving them of sleep and dignity whilst giving millions of people a handy mechanism to pour both scorn and praise on them, probably isn't the best recipe for a balanced mind. However, as with all things pertaining to mental health, what at first glance appears to be a cut and dry case of right vs. wrong becomes more complex on further examination.

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