I was shocked and saddened by the news last month, that Mike Thalassitis, of Love Island fame, had been found dead – aged just 26.
For those who are unfamiliar with Mike Thalassitis, and/or Love Island – Mike appeared in season three of the ITV2 hit show – which sends singletons, looking for love, to a luxurious villa in Mallorca. Participants have to ‘couple-up’ in order to remain in the villa – and all of the (often tumultuous) events are filmed and edited, and broadcast nightly, to eager viewers, back home in the UK. The 2017 series (in which Thalassitis appeared), averaged 2.4 million viewers/episode (Cosmo UK, July 2017).
After the series finishes, participants are rocketed to fame – catalysed by an extensive social media following, developed whilst on the show (social media accounts are often maintained by family and friends – the individuals have no access to the outside world whilst in the villa). Contestants are offered a plethora of partnerships and deals with various brands, as well as stints on other reality television shows.
Mike Thalassitis was one of them. Clothing deals, sponsored holidays, an appearance on Celebs Go Dating… not to mention 690k+ followers on Instagram.
I was stunned to learn that Mike Thalassitis died by suicide. Not because I knew him personally – I simply knew a version of Mike that had been presented to me by Love Island (a carefully constructed ‘reality’ television programme). It was not someone who suggested that there was any insecurity in his happiness and well-being.
That says all that needs to be said about mental health.
It is one of the few things in this world that is totally devoid of prejudice and discrimination. It can affect anyone, at any time, and in any place. This understanding should be something that unifies us, something that strengthens us as a community: the knowledge that our emotions, feelings – spirits – are susceptible to change. Yet it has the complete opposite effect.
We ignore this fact. We isolate ourselves. We pretend that we’re okay, with the (inaccurate) knowledge that everyone else is okay too.
This is particularly the case when it comes to our brothers, fathers, grandfathers, partners, and sons. I’m frightened for my male relatives and friends.
In the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
CALM, Andy’s Man Club and Grassroots (Suicide Prevention) are just a few of the many organisations that have recognised this problem, and are trying to do something about it.
Fundamentally, they all advocate for the same thing – talking.
When my brother and I were growing up, my parents noticed that my brother didn’t talk a lot. This was, I must point out, in comparison to myself – which isn’t exactly hard. So, when we were very young, they sat us both down and we chose a word that either of us could say, at any point, if we ever really wanted to talk about something, and needed the full attention of our parents, or each other. Particularly if we were feeling sad, lonely, or upset about something.
It was nothing fancy, just the title of a movie we both loved at the time (and still do).
I’d really recommend it. What if every family, friendship group, relationship (etc.) – chose a word that could be used when someone really needed to talk. It opens a conversation predicated on the fact that you’re not feeling ‘fine’ – which gets that awkward (often presumed) notion out of the way, so you can just offload and try and understand why you’re feeling the way you are.
*As a side note – there may be no obvious reason as to why you feel the way you do – which is also more than okay. Recognising feelings is important, despite not always understanding them.*
It also tackles the chaotic nature of a 21st century existence – in which it can sometimes be difficult to find the time to talk.
We found (and still find) that it is easier to say our chosen word, than saying ‘I’m not okay… I need to talk… I need help.’
Mental health, by its very nature, is something that can be concealed. Unlike a broken limb, bruise or cut – there are often no physical signs of mental suffering, which makes it difficult to notice, and even harder to acknowledge. For me and my family, replacing a physical sign (bandage, crutches etc.) with a word – is how we’ve overcome this invisibility.
My thoughts are with Mike’s family during what must be an incredibly difficult time.
Take a few minutes today to share this idea with your family and friends. Even if it doesn’t work for you – it may still open a much needed conversation.