'Unhappy' Shahbaz leaves Big Brother house
Stephen Brook, press correspondent
Wednesday May 24, 2006
Big Brother contestant Shahbaz Choudhary, who threatened to kill himself on air, has left the house.
The 37-year-old was watched by psychologists after making the threat and last night left the set after consultations with producers of the Channel 4 reality show.
In a statement, a Big Brother spokeswoman said: "Shahbaz has decided to leave the Big Brother house. He was unhappy and finding it increasingly difficult to integrate within the group dynamic of this year's housemates.
"Of course, all housemates are free to leave at any time as they have in past years."
Choudhary had earlier told the other contestants: "I'm a dead man walking. I came to die on this programme, I'm going to prove it", prompting concerns about his mental state.
His departure came after a leading mental health charity wrote to Channel 4 to complain about the admittance of vulnerable people into the Big Brother house.
Dr Andrew McCulloch, the chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, yesterday wrote to the Channel 4 director of television programming, Kevin Lygo, outlining the charity's opposition to Big Brother's treatment of mental health issues.
Dr McCulloch said the reality TV show had little regard for the health of the contestants and was reinforcing negative stereotypes of people with mental illness, feeding discrimination and making sufferers a "laughing stock".
In his letter, Dr McCulloch said: "Whilst I can only guess at Shahbaz's clinical condition, we are concerned that vulnerable people apparently continue to be allowed into such a high-pressured environment.
"This kind of programming can make individuals who are distressed a laughing stock and this will only seek to feed the discrimination that already impacts heavily on people suffering from mental illness.
"It is disappointing that Channel 4 seems to have little regard for vulnerable contestants in the Big Brother house. I should be interested to know what screening and welfare measures are in place to protect contestants."
The Samaritans also criticised the programme, saying it was irresponsible to keep a psychologically unstable person on the show for the purpose of entertainment.
While being unable to comment on Choudhary's individual case, a spokeswoman for the charity said it was "inappropriate to use someone who may be psychologically unwell as a form of entertainment".
"Anyone needing proper care and support should be offered it," she said.
It's certainly been a VERY eventful first week on UK BB7. I know only a handful on this site will have seen it but the events surrounding the contestant Shahbaz outlined in the Guardian article I posted have raised the issue of how well prepared contestants are for such shows. We are constantly told how they are screened by psychologists and that their mental health is a priority, so something has gone horribly wrong here. Interestingly another housemate has announced that they are also likely to leave. Any other examples of "vulnerable" reality TV contestants? I'd be interested to hear.