Mental Health Warning: This story includes mentions of suicide.
This weekend Caroline Flack, former host of the popular UK show Love Island, passed away from suicide at age 40. In addition to hosting Love Island, Flack had also previously been a host on The X Factor (among many other reality shows) and won BBC’s Dancing On Wheels.
The British host had gained a lot of media attention in the past for her work and relationships. She briefly dated Prince Harry in 2009 and Harry Styles in 2011, but both relationships ended in part to relentless media attention.
Flack had been dealing with harsh publicity recently. The actress stepped down from hosting Love Island late last year when she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton. She had been at the center of a campaign by group Fathers For Justice, who shared a photoshopped mugshot of the actress and spread the hashtag #abusehasnogender.”
Andrew Brady, Flack’s ex-boyfriend (before she dated Burton), shared the hashtag and said, in a tweet that has since been deleted, that he was “not surprised” by the news. Some people are criticizing the Crown Prosecution Service for continuing the assault trial even after Burton dropped the charges against Flack.
Britain’s Tabloid Culture
British tabloids are also under fire for continuous harsh coverage of everything from Flack’s relationships to her assault trial. Outlets like The Sun have been criticized for quickly removing their negative coverage (including a story with a Valentine’s card joking about the assault released just this Friday) following Flack’s death.
British tabloid culture is infamous for its biting coverage of celebrities. The press contributed to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step down from their royal duties earlier this year. The public has called on its government to crack down on the press, and a petition for “Caroline’s Law” has received over 200,000 signatures.
“We welcome the public outcry for change. What happened to Caroline Flack will happen to vulnerable people again and again, until the government acts,” says Nathan Sparkes, policy director of the campaign group Hacked Off.
Television psychologist and welfare consultant Honey Langcaster James advised against pointing the finger in tragic circumstances like these. “We get consumed… by the question of why, and of what could have been done… but the important thing is we don’t speculate.”
Laura Whitmore, who took over as host of Love Island after Flack, asked listeners on her radio show to simply be kind. “I’m not going to pretend she was perfect, but is anyone? She lived every mistake publicly, under the scrutiny of the media.”
After Whitmore’s statement #BeKind began trending on Twitter, even getting shared by pop group Little Mix. On Monday’s episode, Love Island ran ads for mental health group Samaritans. The ads read: “#BeKind. Talking and listening can help, whatever you’re going through.”
Former boyfriend Harry Styles wore a black ribbon to the BRIT awards in honor of the loss. Styles hasn’t publicly commented on her passing, but his mother Anne posted on Instagram: “May you have found your peace @carolineflack.”
Remembering Caroline Flack
Love Island’s co-host Iain Stirling said during the Monday episode’s tribute to Flack: “all absolutely devastated by the tragic news that Caroline… has passed away. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this dreadful time.”
In an essay posted on Tuesday, actor Russell Brand said “I am angry and sad that Caroline Flack found herself in that place… She was a lovely little person, and the idea that she had been so drained of hope by her circumstances chokes me.”
Flack will be remembered by fans for her perpetual kindness, infectious personality, and authentic nature on and off camera. Many fans feel close to her because of her extreme openness on social media. “She was beautiful, successful and famous… but also vulnerable. She didn’t promote an Instagram-style picture-perfect lifestyle, she was real,” one fan told The Guardian.
Flack Family Releases Statement
Flack’s family recently released a statement Caroline wrote before she died, but was advised not to share online. Mrs. Flack, upon releasing the statement, explained: “Carrie sent me this message at the end of January but was told not to post it by advisers but she so wanted to have her little voice heard… So many untruths were out there but this is how she felt and my family and I would like people to read her own words.”
In the statement, Flack apologized: “I’m so sorry to my family for what I have brought upon them and for what my friends have had to go through… I’m not thinking about ‘how I’m going to get my career back.’ I’m thinking about how I’m going to get mine and my family’s life back… I can’t say anymore than that.”
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline wants people to know that if you are feeling overwhelmed, you always have options. To young people, they say: “sometimes your struggle can be underestimated because of your age. But we hear you, and help is available.”
The NSPH says if you feel like you’re depressed, overwhelmed or struggling, please reach out. “Family conflict, relationships, grades, sexual identity, and the loss of important people can seem impossible to deal with. But with support from others, you can.”
They advise you to ask for help when you need it: “Don’t be afraid to let your friends, family or teachers know what you need when they ask.” If you don’t feel that you have someone in your life to safely talk to, there are many hotlines and chat services open 24 hours to talk to you about whatever you’re going through. Please remember, even if it’s hard to believe right now, that you are loved and you are needed here.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line Text START to 741-741
The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678