The world is still reeling from the shock death of reality show Love Island host, Caroline Flack, the third suicide from the UK franchise. Is the fight for eyeballs in New Zealand's media coming at the cost of the stars' mental health? Katie Harris reports.
"I've never been sadder in my whole life."
Six months on from an experience that changed her life forever Georgia Bryers should have been living the dream.
She had just won New Zealand's first season of Heartbreak Island, pocketed $50,000, a shared car and a trip to the US - but the fame came at a cost.
Bryers said she was anxious and depressed.
"I cried more in that period of time than I had in my entire life, and I'm not a crier. I remember feeling so low and not really knowing how to navigate it."
Despite her on-show success, the design student said at the time she felt like the "shell of the girl" she is today.
"I remember not wanting to go to sleep one night because there were all these hateful comments flooding onto my photos."
Bryers spent the night reading and deleting the countless digital messages, afraid that if one went undetected it could breed a pile-on of hate.
Some commenters told Bryers to "kill yourself".
Although she was warned of the potential for digital backlash, the star said "nothing" could have prepared her for the public's reaction.
Television companies have to tighten the purse strings and unpaid reality TV contestants offer cheap and popular thrills for productions looking to save bucks, but a growing number of cast members are paying the true cost.
Charice Patterson is one of them.
Patterson, who is now living back with her mum, said she developed social anxiety after her appearance on Heartbreak Island.
"Everything was crashing down around me and I felt I didn't have any friends or support apart the people I kept in touch with [from the show]."
She was offered psychological counselling sessions but said she didn't take up them up because when she left the island she'd had a "good experience" and didn't think she needed help.
"It's after its aired when you go through the down part. That's when you need the assistance."
Patterson told the Herald on Sunday she was only given a half-hour "box ticking" interview with a psychologist before going on the show and thought producers needed to take more responsibility for contestants' mental health.
"They need to have the conversations about what mental health implications could happen, whether it be anxiety, stress, depression and talk about how much of a high it is and how you're going to feel when that comes down."
During filming, Patterson said she was crying about an issue related to an ex-partner back home when one producer saw her and, instead of offering assistance, asked her to cry next to a bush so they could film it.
"I said no to that and one of the other producers let me go and have some time for myself."
Producers are in a bind.
Some of the best television comes from the on-air catfights, snide comments and tears but the mental health of the individuals at the centre of the debacles is suffering as a result of "good television".
Psychologist Gwendoline Smith has assisted on a reality show and knows the issues contestants may face.
Smith said many people weren't mentally prepared for the culture shock after their "five seconds of fame" is over.
"Some people don't seem to appropriately differentiate between who they are on screen and who they are when they are a truck driver down in Te Kuiti."
Although things may have changed, Smith said when she did help someone from a reality show, the man recieved "no support whatsoever".
"They pretty much just dropped him off and said we've had to pull him off the show. End of story."
In the UK, Love Island remains under intense scrutiny after the death of ex-host Caroline Flack. Former contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26, also committed suicide after appearing on the popular reality TV show.
Although global debate was stirred by the events, the bikini-clad cultural phenomenon that is Love Island is just a drop in the pool of reality TV's strikes against contestants mental health.
Last year two ex-My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding contestants were also found dead in what was a suspected suicide pact.
In New Zealand, Married at First Sight NZ contestant Aimee Collins said it had been "particularly straining and emotional" after it was revealed that her on-screen husband faced allegations of domestic violence in the US.
Another Married at First Sight NZ contestant, Jonathan Trenberth, said he faced a tirade of online abuse after the show went to air.
The reality TV star had to take the summer off work afterwards.
And he's still recovering.
"I've needed a long period to heal and to get over everything that happened there, because it was surprisingly negative."
Trenberth said because of his experience he wasn't surprised to seethesuicides of Love Island stars in the UK.
"To have three of them from the show doing the same thing shows the intensity of online bullying and the effect reality TV has on these people, it's really horrible."
Trenberth said he received comprehensive support from Mediaworks and Warner Brothers, fromdedicated people checking that he was alright.
Although his relationship with his husband turned sour and he suffered mental health problems, Trenberth said he didn't blame the show. "You're not forced into it [the show] at all, it's the opposite, you're warned."
Like Bryers, Trenberth said nothing can prepare you for the effect being on a reality TV show can have on your mental health.
The shock of seeing yourself on screen can have a jarring effect on contestants, be it frustration over the way certain scenes are portrayed or having to face your on-screen actions In real life.
For Heartbreak Island season two contestants Sam Newell, it was both.
The 24-year-old was accused of infidelity - something he denied, but said he valued his time onscreen because it helped him "change his ways".
"I got put in Women's Day and the title of the article was 'He's a Cheater'."
Newell was booted from the show after it emerged he and his ex-girlfriend, who entered the show as an intruder, had slept together shortly before filming.
"If I hadn't seen myself on TV, acting the way I was, I don't think I would have made the changes in my life that I have today."
After he was ousted, Newell said he was offered counselling and is still in touch with one of the producers.
Flack's death and the ensuing social media storm have brought into question the safety of hosting the controversial reality shows and whether in 2020, it's still appropriate to produce shows with such serious and well-documented mental health impacts.
A TVNZ spokesperson said all contestants were spoken toby a psychologist before starting, and after filming all cast members were offered free and unlimited access to a specialist psychologist while the show was on air and in the months afterward.
TVNZ did not confirm whether they would be shooting another season of Heartbreak Island after the Love Island backlash, but it was not on its schedule.
"While Heartbreak Island and Love Island have relationships at their core, they're different shows. Heartbreak Island for example focused on challenge elements and relationship building."
A spokesperson added that no producers could recall asking Charice to cry near a bush.
MediaWorks also screens contestants before commencing filming, and every contestant must be deemed fit to participate by a professional psychologist.
"Before we begin filming any Married at First Sight NZ season we take the time to speak to the participants and explain that Married at First Sight NZ has a huge social following."
A spokesperson from the network said fan engagement was mostly positive, but sometimes the line does get crossed.
Although the hate mail was brutal, for Bryers, her time of Heartbreak Island was worth the sleepless nights.
"The growth and the experience I've taken from that is just massive and its priceless, it's made me a stronger person and more empathetic to people who have been on shows, have had hardship or have mental issue."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202