The mother of Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon has revealed she was diagnosed with a brain tumour after her daughter's death — and doctors said stress could be to blame.
Deborah Gradon told The Mirror that online trolling is "the next destructive force within society" and referred to Love Island as "abhorrent" and a "Machiavellian experiment".
Sophie Gradon appeared on the 2016 series of the reality series and later spoke of experiencing issues with cyber-bullying.
She was found dead in June 2018 at the age of 32, with an inquest confirming that she took her own life.
Deborah has revealed she was horrified at the level of trolling her daughter received during her time on the show and in the aftermath of its airing.
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She said: "We’re looking here at the next destructive force within society and the government needs to do more.
"If a beautiful, clever girl can be destroyed by public humiliation, then anyone can.”
In the wake of her daughter's death Deborah visited a specialist, complaining of blurred vision and loss of balance, and was diagnosed with an endocrine tumour in the pituitary gland of her brain.
She added: "He said it could well have been due to the stress of everything. It’s not cancerous but by the sheer virtue of where it is in my pituitary gland, it is dangerous.
“I get chronic fatigue. I live every day wondering whether I will wake up blind or with a brain bleed because the tumour’s putting pressure on my pituitary.”
Less than a year after Gradon's passing, 2017 Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis also committed suicide, with the two deaths sparking a discussion about reality TV aftercare and online trolling.
This conversation continued after Love Island host Caroline Flack took her own life in February 2020.
Deborah spoke of her pride at her daughter's decision to speak out against trolls and cyber-bullies, giving talks to schoolkids about the issue, but said her pain was "still there".
She now believes social media companies should introduce ID requirements in order to crack down on anonymous trolling, which is a measure advocated by numerous celebrities including Katie Price.
Deborah also says anyone pondering a stint on Love Island when it returns this year should "think very hard" about everything that comes with the show.
“I would tell them not to do it," she said. "You are part of this Machiavellian experiment – for other people’s vicarious entertainment."
Deborah added: "They don’t really care about your emotions and mental health and they will exploit you.
"Love Island is a complete cash cow for ITV. It’s abhorrent that it’s allowed to still air.”
Along with many other reality TV shows, Love Island has spoken of improving its aftercare procedures for contestants in recent years.
A spokesman for the show told The Mirror: “Welfare and duty of care towards our contributors is always our primary concern and we have extensive measures in place to support the islanders before, during and after their participation on the show.
“We have continued to evolve our process with each series, as the level of social media and media attention around the islanders has increased, which includes enhanced psychological support, more detailed conversations with potential Islanders regarding the impact of participation on the show, bespoke training for all Islanders on social media and a pro-active aftercare package.”
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