Love Island has said it takes its duty of care for contestants “extremely seriously” after star Jacques O’Neill told how appearing on the show was “the worst decision of my life” in an interview given after his shock early exit.
The 23-year-old chose to end his time in the TV villa following controversy over the infamous Casa Amor episodes, which see new “bombshell” contestants introduced.
In emotional scenes aired earlier this week, he told the remaining Love Island hopefuls that he felt he wasn’t being himself.
“I’m trying my best but I’m not a fake person and I’m not going to start faking things and act like I’m okay when things inside aren’t actually okay,” he said.
Now, in a new interview with The Sun which he shared on social media, Jacques has spoken about his mental health struggles with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and said he “couldn’t cope” in the TV villa, adding: “Doing Love Island was the worst decision of my life.”
In his interview, Jacques said: “I was ready to break down. I was feeling so mentally drained, I just wanted to go home and get myself right.
“It broke me and I was already broken. I was crying my eyes out. I couldn’t cope. I was literally feeling awful. It was the worst I’d ever felt in my life.”
A spokesperson for Love Island told Sky News the show has “rigorous and extensive checks in place” to asses contestants’ physical and mental health in advance of being cleared for the show. “This is something we take extremely seriously,” they added.
When announcing his shock exit to the Love Island group, Jacques said he felt it was best to leave for the sake of his relationship with Paige Thorne, 24, so he could be at his “best” for her.
It came after the rugby player spent several days trying to win her back after it was revealed he kissed newcomer Cheyanne Kerr while Paige was away in Casa Amor.
In the aftermath of those scenes, Love Island reintroduced Adam Collard – a controversial contestant who appeared in a previous series in 2018 – who showed an interest in Paige.
Speaking to The Sun, Jacques said he had started to feel like “things could go horribly wrong”.
He continued: “At home you can remove yourself from situations, but in there you had to deal with every situation, and in that moment I took my microphone off, and walked straight through the front doors because I just wanted to get out of that place.”
Jacques, from Leeds, flew back to the UK on Tuesday and stopped off at his former rugby club, Castleford Tigers, on Wednesday.
Days before entering the villa, the rugby club confirmed his release from his contract to be on the reality show – confirming they would have the first option to re-sign him if he wanted to resume his rugby league career.
Speaking about Jacques leaving the hit show to protect his mental health, head coach Lee Radford said: “Like any walk of life there are obstacles in front of you, unfortunately. Making sure people are around you – whether that be your family or club related – to help you deal with that is pretty important.”
In May 2019 ITV released a comprehensive new set of duty of care processes ahead of the fifth series.
They updated those processes for the most recent series and began giving inclusion training, including language and behaviour, to contestants ahead of them entering the villa.
In their full statement in response to Jacques’ interview, the Love Island spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on any individual’s medical records owing to confidentiality and our own duty of care towards the Islanders, however we have rigorous and extensive checks in place to assess Islanders’ physical and mental health in advance of being cleared to enter the Villa. This is something we take extremely seriously.
“As we said at the time, Jacques made the decision to leave and we respected that decision. Islanders are welcome to leave should they choose to do so and we would never put pressure on someone to stay in the Villa.”