Kem Cetinay has bravely spoken out about a lifelong struggle with anxiety which at one point left him feeling suicidal - but says that starring in Love Island helped him to recover.
The TV star is a regular contributor to This Morning, but took to the sofa as a guest with his mum on Monday to tell hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby about his experiences of mental health problems.
At his worst point, Cetinay revealed that he felt suicidal, but explained that winning Love Island had been an opportunity for him to show his true self after a lifetime of saying no to every opportunity - despite the ITV show having come under fire for a history of contestants suffering from mental health issues.
Remembering his school years, Cetinay said: “My mum found a notebook in my room where I used to write down all the things I felt and she found a note where I wrote I was thinking about suicide.
“I had no education, no friends, I felt like a burden.”
'I've been at the bottom. I've been at rock bottom where life wasn't worth living anymore'@KemCetinay bravely opens up about his struggle with anxiety, and offers his advice on how others can cope with it.#BritainGetTalking pic.twitter.com/QHK8ZjsILR— This Morning (@thismorning) October 7, 2019
The discovery proved to be a turning point as it helped his family to find a cognitive behavioural therapist who was able to teach him the tools he needed to cope with the anxiety which had affected him since the age of nine.
However, his mum Figen said she had panicked when she realised he was taking part in reality TV series Love Island: “I was absolutely devastated and my question was why would you do this after everything you’ve been through?
“But his answer was, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.’
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about how certain programmes can affect mental health, but in our case I think it helped Kem because he came to terms with himself and he accepted anxiety is part of him, it’s not going to control him but he can control it.”
Love Island producers reviewed the support offered to contestants earlier this year after the tragic deaths of former stars Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.
Cetinay added of his reasons for joining the show: “I spent my whole life saying no to everything. I had so much ambition in me, but I was always held back. I wanted everyone, even my mum and dad, to see the real me.”
@thismorning Kem is so brave! I’ve struggled with severe anxiety many years and I don’t think it’s spoke about enough. People associate mental health with depression. People associate anxiety with worrying but not a disease. This is real. Proud of you Kem❤️— C (@ManchestrGirl) October 7, 2019
Kem’s anxiety story is pretty much exactly the same story as mine, started off with a health scare in the family and escalated in the exact same way, @KemCetinay you’re so brave to speak out like how you just done, you are going to help so many people, good on you💕 #ThisMorning— Georgia ~ (@georgiakatycat) October 7, 2019
I relate to Kem’s story with anxiety so much. I got taken out of school at the same age because of my anxiety and depression which started when I lost my friend and grandad. I left school without my GCSEs. I can’t describe how comforting it is to hear this @KemCetinay thank you.— emiIy 💫 (@r5ftmcfly) October 7, 2019
Cetinay said that the problems had started after his mum had been seriously ill in hospital with septicaemia and for a terrifying period it had seemed like he might lose her.
He said: “I could never stay at a friend’s house, I always needed to stay at home so that I knew my mum was sleeping.
“The list of things that I couldn’t do became longer and longer.”
He added: “I left school with one GCSE which is probably my biggest regret because education is so important to all of my family.”
The interview linked in with ITV’s #BritainGetTalking campaign in partnership with mental health charity Mind, which saw Ant and Dec pause the Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions final over the weekend to allow viewers a couple of minutes to talk to each other.
Amazing! @antanddec have just launched our new mental wellness campaign, pausing @BGT and encouraging families at home to talk. #BritainGetTalking Supported by @MindCharity and @YoungMindsUK #BGTTheChampions #BGT pic.twitter.com/eWUiRlmvNg— ITV (@ITV) October 5, 2019
Cetinay said that he was doing much better but still had to deal with his anxiety on a regular basis.
He said: “Even now, I still battle with it all the time and it’s been a really long journey.
“Even on my first day [at This Morning] everything was telling me to turn around and run the other way.
“I’ve been at rock bottom where life wasn’t worth living anymore and I’ve kind of got nothing to lose.”