22 Mar 19
The Scottish Sun
I WAS sitting at home on my own, disbelieving and despondent, on Saturday having been told the terrible news that Mike Thalassitis had taken his own life.
In recent months, as the Love Island star started to cope with life outside the villa, I had become pals with the man who was nicknamed Muggy on the ITV2 reality series.
Mike Thalassitis had become pals with The Sun’s Dan Wootton
Given his portrayal as a blokey lothario on the telly, I didn’t think we’d ever get on.
But his quick wit and vulnerable personality cut through as we first connected on social media and an unlikely bond was formed.
I’d last chatted with him just two days before he died and, despite the death of his beloved gran, he assured me he was fine.
He was looking forward to the opening of his Essex restaurant and speaking to me in some detail about the choice of decor and food.
On television Mike had always come across as confident
So how could this have happened?
Like so many suicides, it seemed almost impossible and totally senseless.
But more because this was Mike we were talking about — the man with everything, on the surface at least.
Looks. Sporting talent. A long line of women who were desperate to be with him. A lovely family.
Mike left behind a fantastic family
Like many others, I needed to say something, so I took to social media to share my feelings.
There are so many downsides to this new form of communication — as we saw last week with the devastating New Zealand terrorist attack streamed live on Facebook — but on this dark night it filled me with hope.
One of the many devastated, thoughtful and helpful replies and messages I received was from Sheridan Smith.
“This should be a massive wake up call,” she wrote.
“I feel sick. Reach out, sometimes to the most confident friend. We can only learn and try to change.”
Sheridan Smith has urged all who are suffering to reach out
This sparked a conversation that I could tell so many others needed that night — millions of Love Island fans felt they knew Mike.
Sheridan summed up my feelings by adding: “Wish we could stop this but each person has their own sadness, but why is it the ones we think are strong?
“We should teach and do anything we can, impossible as it seems. I feel so sick, Dan — we can surely do something to help.
“That’s two suicides with one reality show. We have to help somehow.”
Mike is the second Love Island star to end his own life
I knew she was right. So many stories were flowing in. So much honesty. So much pain.
Mike had already sparked something positive — the opening of a nationwide debate about the mental health of young men, and the damage reality TV and social media can cause.
Just 24 hours later, The Sun partnered with the excellent and important charity Papyrus to launch our Let’s Talk campaign, which was quickly backed by the suicide prevention minister.
The response was overwhelming.
I was touched by the stories our readers shared with me publicly and privately all week, convincing me that this is a conversation so desperately needed.
Of course, as always, there is a power in celebrities bravely recounting their own battles.
Former X Factor winner Matt Terry told how his mental health issues had got so bad after the show that his mum slept in his bedroom. Thank you, Matt.
Matt Terry has been discussing his own battles
A girl band member reached out to me on Instagram and told me how she attempted to take her own life last year.
But now she’s finding hope.
Top TV presenter Matt Johnson wrote so powerfully about his own descent into darkness and why there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, this is an issue close to The Sun’s heart.
TV host Matt Johnson says he has had his own struggles
Last year we ran the You’re Not Alone campaign, designed to help people with mental illness.
That campaign continues to run on The Sun Online today.
I applaud ITV for tackling the issue head on and unveiling new health processes for Love Island — but what I’ve learned over the years is that suicide is no one’s fault.
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Mike adored his time on that show.
Contrary to popular belief, he even loved being referred to by his nickname Muggy. He told me so many times.
I just wish he could have seen the heartfelt reaction to his life this week — tragically, he had no idea how much he meant to so many.
[boxout headline=”How to get help” intro=”If YOU are struggling, or you are worried about someone, you can find confidential advice from mental health professionals at Papyrus. “]
Call the Papyrus HopeLine UK on 0800 068 4141 or email email@example.com.
Love Island’s Alex Miller reveals he nearly took his own life
LOVE Island star Alex Miller has revealed that he was close to taking his own life after appearing on the ITV2 show last year – but he was saved by one of the producers.
Alex, 28, spoke out following Mike Thalassitis tragic death on Saturday, with the 2017 Love Island contestant taking his own life in a woodland near his home at the age of 26.
Alex was close to taking his own life after Love Island
Essex boy Alex got kicked out of the villa after Megan Barton-Hanson chose Wes Nelson over him during a recoupling, and he has now revealed that he suffered from depression once the show ended.
Speaking on Access All Areas with Lizzie Cundy and Stephen Leng, the reality star shared: “I did go through a dark patch where I would look at bridges and think ‘Yeah, I could drive into that’.
“I was in a dark place [after the show]. It was winter time, there was a lot of factors coming up, knowing that everything was sort of coming to an end like getting back into the old routine in the job.”
Alex said that he struggled to return to his regular job, adding: “Everything has died a death, you’ve fallen off the cliff of reality fame. It’s not what it is cracked up to be.”
The hunk was dumped by blonde beauty Megan
Thankfully, one of Love Island’s producers saw a worrying rant that Alex had posted to his Instagram page and got in touch.
The reality star continued: “I had a little rant on Instagram. I went through a bit of a dark patch and luckily one of the producers follow me on Instagram saw the rant got in touch with me and put me back in touch with a psychiatrist.
“Looking back, all I needed to do was be forward and go talk to them.”
Alex said that the therapy helped him get through the dark days and he is now trying to move on with his life.
Alex opened up on Access All Areas earlier today
The hunk went on to defend the show’s producers, who have come under scrutiny following Mike and fellow Love Island alumni Sophie Gradon’s shock deaths, with ex-contestants insisting that bosses need to provide more after care.
But Alex disagrees, sharing: “They can’t be pro-active all the time and keep chasing and keep chasing.
“There are so many contestants, it’s impossible for them to do.”
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Alex’s comments come as Love Island bosses sent a letter to The Sun detailing new safeguards for their stars.
It said that therapy will be offered to “all Islanders and not only those that reach out to us”.
They will also provide social media training and financial management advice.
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[boxout headline=”What I’ve learned”]
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