Content Warning: This article discusses suicide. If you or somebody you care for needs help or information about depression, suicide, anxiety, or mental health issues, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Tayla Winter, a participant in this year’s season of Married at First Sight (MAFS), has said the show subjects contestants to “coercive control” and that “someone will end their life over this show one day”. 

She made the accusations on Channel 7’s Sunrise, also saying that the show is produced in an “unethical” manner, where producers “[pretend] to be your best friend the entire time and you build a trust with what you think is a really strong relationship with them and it’s all fake”.

“Going into the show, I had no idea how controlled it would be and there is a lot of manipulation, coercive control,” she said. “And it’s pretty scary once you’re over there, when you’re not in your home state and you’re surrounded by all of these camera crew and all these people you don’t know. It is quite intimidating and you say and do things that are under a really high-pressure environment and you quickly regret those things that you said.”

She added that there was immense pressure to do and say thing that you don’t feel comfortable with, and that the show’s editing forces contestants to fit into certain character types and storylines.

The current trajectory of the show, with its high-levels of drama and public feedback and scrutiny, make it a “dangerous” proposition for contestants, she said.

“I know that some of my cast-mates are really struggling. I’ve been struggling… I hope that people just understand what it’s really like, and that’s why I’m trying to spread a bit of awareness about it because it is dangerous.”

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Nine has since responded to the allegations, saying it takes the health and wellbeing of contestants very seriously and has numerous support mechanisms in place.

Variety Australia contacted both production company Endemol Shine Australia and broadcaster Nine Network about Tayla’s concerns, asking what they do to properly prepare contestants for how the production and editing elements of the show work prior to joining the cast, as well as what ongoing support, if any, there is to ensure the wellbeing of contestants once they come back to reality.

Nine and Endemol were also asked if they believe recent seasons of MAFS have been made ethically and are treating contestants fairly, and if there will be any changes next year off the back of Winter’s claims and concerns.

Nine responded via a spokesperson saying both organisations take their obligations to the health and wellbeing of contestants extremely seriously.

The response that Variety Australia received is published in full below.

“Nine and Endemol Shine takes its obligations in respect to the health and wellbeing of the participants of this program extremely seriously. All participants have access to the show psychologist during filming, during broadcast and once the program has ended. Nine also have an additional service for participants should they like or need further individual and confidential psychological support. This service gives participants access to clinicians who have been specifically engaged to support those involved in the program in relation to their experiences. This service is available to all participants for as long as they need it, it does not end.

“Nine provides all participants with ongoing support for the duration of the show and we monitor all participant’s social media accounts so that we are aware of and manage any negative commentary. We are very proactive in this space, and care for the health and wellbeing of the participants. As a result of the level of interest in the participant’s personal lives and volume of commentary on every post, Nine manages all individual MAFS social accounts with their permission, as an extra measure of protecting them from negativity.”

Last year, Nine’s head of content production and development, Adrian Swift, told Variety Australia that is is “absolutely possible to go too far on these shows“, but contended that at its core, the show is about love “not a show about drama”.

“We don’t make things happen and we don’t excise anything that has happened,” he told Variety Australia. 

“I’ll give you an example about that. About three seasons ago, Season 7, a groom used a bride’s toothbrush to clean a toilet.

“More than anything in the world, we didn’t want to put that to air. We thought it was just stupid and mean and awful and undergraduate, just everything. But it was so material to all the relationships in that group, that we couldn’t excise it.

“So we’re kind of hoist on our own petard a bit here. We put things to air that we don’t want to go to air, but we certainly don’t believe all publicity is good publicity and we believe that it is absolutely possible to go too far on these shows.”

For more on this topic, follow the Reality TV Observer.

If you or somebody you care for needs help or information about depression, suicide, anxiety, or mental health issues, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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