Leading mental health and relationship experts warn Channel Nine’s Married At First Sight has gone too far and will lead contestants to suffer severe trauma and long-term emotional issues.
Concerns were raised after TV bride Lauren Huntriss lashed out at Married At First Sight producers, claiming she was edited in a “disgusting” way, which painted her as a “sex freak”.
“I’ve suffered anxiety for, like, the last six years,” she told KIIS FM radio hosts Jackie O and Beau Ryan on Tuesday.
“I just feel like certain people with these mental health issues shouldn’t be put on a show like this,” she said.
The show, created by production company Endemol Shine and broadcast by Channel Nine, sees so-called “relationship experts” match people for TV “marriages”, then films the aftermath to share with the public in great detail.
In raw viewer numbers, the ‘reality’ show has been a huge winner for the network, regularly attracting more than 1.2 million viewers, numbers usually seen only by major sporting events.
A spokesperson for Endemol Shine told The New Daily: “All participants are adults and remain in full control of the choices they make”.
“Everyone makes their own decision about what they say and do. But this experiment can be highly emotional and the participants’ reactions can often be unpredictable, even to themselves.”
‘It’s gone too far’
Counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip warned the show, which attracted more than two million viewers on Monday, had gone too far this year and was destroying people’s mental health.
“It’s been intentionally set up to cause conflict, grief and drama,” she told The New Daily.
'I was so hurt by how it ended' Lauren on relationship with Matt pic.twitter.com/WN0jd97Uy3
— KIIS 1065 (@KIIS1065) February 18, 2019
“I really feel for Matt being labelled the 29-year-old virgin as he has been completely humiliated and this will lead to him suffering severe trauma and serious long-term emotional issues,” she said.
Dr Phillip said it was shocking that producers were choosing to validate behaviour by this year’s cheating bride Ines Basic, who had an affair with contestant Sam Ball.
“The producers are validating poor behaviour because they want to focus on the distress of the contestants and that’s what is rather frightening about this,” she said.
Matching techniques: ‘Disturbing’
Relationship and counselling therapist Susan Lackner said the show was completely unethical.
“Some couples are intentionally matched to cause conflict to simply boost TV ratings,” Ms Lackner told The New Daily.
“The show is giving an illusion to the public that infidelity is acceptable and it doesn’t send a positive message to couples or people wanting to have relationships,” she said.
— Married At First Sight (@MarriedAU) February 18, 2019
Ms Lackner said the show’s matching techniques were disturbing and highly questionable.
“I hope the general public understand that Married At First Sight is really all about the ratings, with no bearing to what it’s like to have a relationship,” she said.
No support for contestants
Former My Kitchen Rules winner Bella Jakubiak whose husband James Webster was also a former contestant on the first season of Married At First Sight said the show was “messing with people for the sake of ratings”.
“One person from Married at First Sight, she was telling me that the actual psychologists are there to consult to the producers but they don’t actually treat the contestants,” Ms Jakubiak told The New Daily.
“If the psychologists were actually treating the contestants as patients they would have to abide by the moral codes of confidentiality with doctor patients,” she said.
Clinical psychologist Jordan Foster warned future contestants about the repercussions of participating in the show.
“People need to be aware they’re placing their integrity in the hands of producers who will do with it what they like,” Ms Foster told The New Daily.
“We have to keep in mind that contestants will be pained in a certain way and it might not be in the way that they agreed to or anticipated, so they need to think about how it will impact them after the show,” she said.