I was Big Brother spin-off’s psychotherapist – contestants will be less vulnerable when it returns, says Gladiators' Jet | The Sun

WITH Big Brother set for a sensational return to screens next year, debate is raging over whether or not it'd be better consigned to the TV graveyard.

Spin-off show Bit On The Side's psychotherapist Diane Youdale believes the concept is still fascinating and bosses will ensure future contestants are less vulnerable than years gone by.


Speaking exclusively to The Sun, the former Gladiators star says: "I was the therapist on Big Brother's Bit on the Side for a number of years when Emma [Willis] and Rylan [Clark] were presenting, and I got to see a lot of the dynamic and the background that was going on.

"The mental health support, the producers eventually got it right.

"You have a unique social experiment going on live in front of our eyes every night. I like that because I'm fascinated by human behaviour, dynamics and relationships."

The show, which has been off air in the UK since 2018, came under scrutiny during its near two decade run over allegations it exploited vulnerable contestants such as Pete Bennett, who has Tourette's syndrome, and Shahbaz Chauhdry, who threatened to take his own life in the house.

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However, broadcast regulator Ofcom ruled in favour of the show in 2006 after several mental health charities lodged complaints.

Its report said: “By including scenes featuring individuals upset and in conflict with other housemates, Channel 4 offered viewers an insight into the housemates.

“In Ofcom’s view this is in line with both the audience and the contestants’ expectations.”

Diane believes later series achieved a better balance among contestants and is confident if the same team is involved in the new series they will continue to get it right.

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She says: "The big but is the people who sign up for it. Their ability to choose people who are not vulnerable has got a lot better. They've got a good field of psychologists behind them.If they use the same guys, hopefully, fingers crossed, we'll not get the vulnerability we've see so far we've seen in some other shows.

"The problem is though, the darker side of human nature, we kind of want to see the crash and burn, don't we? For me, that's red flags, all over. There's been way too many that have been too vulnerable. So they'll be so stringent in the future because of duty of care and all the liability that can go with it."

Diane has been working in partnership with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy to launch the new Therapy talks initiative which seeks to educate people on how effective counselling can be.

With the country in the grips of a mental health crisis that has seen nearly 70 per cent of the population experience an issue within the last five years, Diane believes the impact of therapy can be life-changing.

You have a unique social experiment going on live in front of our eyes every night.

She says: "We don't have to be in crisis to reach out. Just talk to somebody who is completely in confidence and away from our family and friends, because that's not the place to start unpacking stuff that may be heavy and weighing on us in that moment because you get too much projection, too much interference, which can just add to the problem in the first place.

"Sometimes people can in just one session can open so many things it actually start a natural process of healing for them. You just don't know until you actually get there.

"There's no commitment. No therapist is going to hold you to anything because it's a fit both ways. It's got to be a comfortable space for someone to feel they can be just who they are in that moment with what's going on for them without anything else, they need that neutrality, and there's a fit for everybody out there."

She adds: "Popular culture can give people the wrong impression about therapy and what you might expect from a therapy session, but Therapy talks helps to paint a clearer picture on what exactly therapy is and how great it can be for us. My time as a Gladiator sparked my intrigue into becoming a therapist so I am delighted to now lend my name to a campaign that aims to raise awareness about such an important topic."

If you are interested in speaking to a therapist, you can find thousands of registered mental health professionals on the BACP directory which allows you to search by your issue, location and whether a therapist works in-person or online.

 To watch the film and find out more, visit www.bacp.co.uk/therapytalks

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