An MP who has spoken openly about his own mental health issues has urged ITV to axe The Jeremy Kyle show for good.
Charles Walker MP told the BBC it would be “extremely sensible” if ITV said “this has gone far enough”, adding that it was “a watershed moment”.
Mr Walker spoke to the BBC after the ITV show was suspended following the death of a guest shortly after filming.
Hampshire police confirmed Steven Dymond was found dead on 9 May following a recording of the show.
The death is not being treated as suspicious.
A spokeswoman for Portsmouth coroner’s office said: “HM Coroner has ordered a post-mortem to be carried out and is awaiting the result. An inquest is likely to be opened into the death within the next few days.”
Downing Street has also commented on the case. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This is a deeply concerning case.
“Broadcasters and production companies have a responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of participants and viewers of their programmes.
“We are clear they must have appropriate levels of support in place.”
The pre-recorded episode Mr Dymond took part in was based on the subject of infidelity and it is understood he took a lie detector test.
ITV said everyone at the show is “shocked and saddened” and “thoughts are with the family and friends”.
It will not screen the episode in question and said both filming and broadcasting were suspended with “immediate effect”.
Speaking to The Sun, Mr Dymond’s former fiancee Jane Callaghan said: “I know we split up a week ago but we were together for two years. I still loved him.
“We got engaged Christmas Day 2017. He was crying, the love was real. He was the most generous and loving person. He was quietly struggling, and we didn’t know at the time. He cheated on me, I know he did. I can’t forgive but I just want him to be alive.”
All previous episodes of the show have also been taken down from the channel’s catch-up service, ITV Hub. Episodes will not air on ITV2 either.
The Jeremy Kyle Show is the most popular programme on ITV’s daytime schedule, with an average of one million viewers and a 22% audience share.
Mr Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne and a member of the all-party parliamentary group on suicide and self-harm prevention, told the BBC that guests on the Jeremy Kyle show are “not really guests, they’re victims” and described it as “a watershed moment”.
“I don’t want to pile in on Jeremy Kyle because he probably feels bad enough, although obviously not as bad as the family… and this is a shared responsibility,” Mr Walker said.
“None of this stuff would be made if nobody watched it.”
Mr Walker, who has openly talked about having OCD, said: “It’s mental health awareness week and I have experience with mental health – I think it would be extremely sensible for ITV to say this has gone far enough, this is a great tragedy, we’re not going to broadcast this show any longer, it’s not fit for purpose in 2019 and we feel it’s part of our corporate responsibility.”
He added: “Jeremy Kyle is a talented man who can do other things and go on to make other TV shows. The Jeremy Kyle Show will become just a memory.
“Societally, we have a responsibility for why this TV is made, it’s a reflection of ourselves that it has been made and so many people watch it.
“It’s cruel and there’s enough cruelty in the world without showing it on TV.”
Labour MP for Sunderland Central, Julie Elliott, agreed the programme should be culled: “I have grave concerns, and have had for some time, about the way shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show appear to exploit the most vulnerable in society.
“The production of this show has been rightly suspended and I think it is time to end the show once and for all.
“I do think that we need to look more widely at all shows currently being made that seek to prey on the most vulnerable.
“We shouldn’t be putting people’s lives at risk in the name of entertainment. These shows need to be much, much better in supporting those who appear on them.”
But White Dee, as she became known after finding fame on documentary series Benefits Street, said she was happy with the way she had been looked after on the show following an appearance in February.
“I received an awful lot of pre-show care along with a good bit of after-show care.”
She told BBC Radio 5 Live it “was a very positive experience”.
“About a week before there was a lot of phone contact… with the production team… [they asked] is there anything you don’t want to talk about or you do want to talk about? It was constant up until the recording. They talked you through everything step by step.”
After the show, Dee said “Graham (Stanier, the show’s therapist) came in and said, ‘How did you think it went?’
“Once I left the studio the contact did kind of stop… but if I’d had any issues [maybe] it would have carried on.”
ITV said in a statement: “The Jeremy Kyle Show has significant and detailed duty of care processes in place for contributors pre, during and post-show which have been built up over 14 years, and there have been numerous positive outcomes from this, including parties who have resolved complex and long-standing personal problems.”
Damian Collins MP, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, told the BBC: “TV companies have a clear duty of care towards the people who appear on these programmes. My concern about shows like Jeremy Kyle’s is that they can put vulnerable people in very exposed positions.
“We need to know what support participants are offered during the making of these programme and afterwards. I believe that Ofcom should conduct an independent review of the duty of care policies in place around the Jeremy Kyle show and other similar programmes.”
Mr Collins told the BBC that the DCMS select committee would be discussing what should be done to review the duty of care for people appearing in reality TV shows during a private meeting on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for media watchdog Ofcom said on Monday: “This is clearly a very distressing case. Although we can only assess content that has been broadcast, we are discussing this programme with ITV as a priority to understand what took place.”
Conservative MP Simon Hart said: “We need to be very careful about applying a disproportionate reaction Jeremy Kyle is not the only show that specialises in people’s discomfort.
“Personally I would like to be reassured there is a degree of aftercare. People should be aware of the aftermath and the possible impact on their families.”
The Jeremy Kyle Show has been broadcast in its mid-morning slot since 2005. Its guests discuss relationship issues and conflicts with each other in front of Kyle’s studio audience.
It is well-known for its often heated debates, with Kyle mediating between guests.
Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James, who has worked on various reality TV shows over the last 15 years, told BBC Breakfast that care of TV guests had improved in general but added there was still work to be done.
“I’ve seen a real improvement over the years in terms of how seriously this is taken,” she said.
“[But] I think there are improvements that can be made. One of the difficulties comes from the fact that even though producers want to help, they don’t always understand how psychological services work.”
ITV’s former executive chairman Michael Grade told the BBC: “ITV are managing this extremely well, they’ve taken the show off the air, Ofcom are coming in… I think they’ve handled it immaculately.
“They’re going to lose a very popular show, probably, it would be very difficult to bring it back now, unless there were some reasons we don’t know that means they’re completely exonerated.
“I don’t think it hurts ITV, they’ve got a hole in the schedule, they’ve got some very creative people, they’ll come up with some new format, some new idea, it’s an opportunity. But they’re absolutely right to have taken the programme off the air.”
Back in 2007, a judge took aim at The Jeremy Kyle Show, describing it as “human bear-baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment”.