WHAT a week it has been for pontificating. A million words or more have been written about the sudden demise of The Jeremy Kyle Show, which was axed by ITV after the death of a guest who took part in the programme.

It was a disastrous week for ITV, that much we know, but what is less clear is the layers of complexity that lurk beneath the surface of their decision to cancel the show. This is not a simple story by any means, despite the near universal agreement that ITV made the right call to bring the circus of humiliation to an end.

ITV initially suspended filming of the show after 63-year-old Steve Dymond was found dead a week after taking part in a programme that will now never be transmitted. It seems he took a lie detector test to prove to his former partner that he had been faithful. The test suggested otherwise and, according to his landlady, unable to cope with the depressing setback, took his own life.

The majority of commentators across all branches of the newspaper industry condemned the show and were impatient about any review. Simply put, they smelled blood and were unconvinced by any mitigation. We know what they were arguing against, but what was less clear is what the critics were arguing for.

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There are hundreds of unanswered questions. Some implicate the show even more deeply and others might be put forward as mitigation. For example: was it the lie-detector test alone that brought about his state of mind? In February Dymond failed to appear at Southampton magistrates’ court for non-payment of a £4300 fine. A no-bail warrant had been issued and there was a significant likelihood that he would be facing some kind of jail sentence. He was struggling financially and emotionally too.

It further transpired that Dymond had been diagnosed with depression months before he participated in the show – further mitigation if you’re in defensive mode, or more likely evidence that the show may have exacerbated his condition? Why were ITV inviting a mentally fragile man on to a show with such a heinous track record? It is not a good look.

Into all of this comes Dymond’s doctor, who supposedly provided a letter to confirm that notwithstanding his diagnosis of depression, he was fit to appear on the show. Was he acting wisely or getting a needy patient out of a crowded and over-stretched surgery?

There is a fascinating connection here between the medical profession and the media that has gone largely unnoticed. ITV will argue, even in the aftermath, that Dymond gave the producers his “informed consent” – a medical term which has been absorbed into the television world through the improved regulation of reality shows.

It began as an expression that meant a patient understood the surgery procedures that they were about to undergo and so gave informed consent to, say, an operation. Under Ofcom’s codes it means that a participant in a show fully understands what they are consenting to and are aware of the impacts that the show might have on their life.

I seriously doubt that Dymond was in a position to give “informed consent”. He was desperate to win back his fiancee and had placed misguided trust in a test that at best is faulty and inconsistent. He further believed that the show would paint him in a good light and thus rekindle his relationship and so lift him out of depression. It was a self-deluding decision.

What we can only guess at is what role the “glamour” of television might have also played in the decision: travelling to London, spending a night in a grand hotel, rehearsing his story, appearing in front of a live audience beneath the bright lights, receiving an appearance fee and then being taken home to Portsmouth by private car. Set against his normal life, it was at the very least something different.

By pressing his doctor to give him a letter of support it was clear he was keen to experience the show and take the failed test.

BUT what does the term “informed consent” actually mean in the context of popular television? There are obvious layers to consent. Children cannot appear on shows without the prior consent of their parent or carer, and only then under controlled conditions with a nominated chaperone.

Many producers now remove alcohol from the “green-room” to ensure that drink does not impair someone’s informed consent. Even then, most people have no real idea of what will happen when they return to their community after appearing on television – will it be to approval, to indifference or to downright humiliation?

All of this brings us full-circle to Dymond’s mental health and the under-reported part of the story.

ITV abandoned the show in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Week, a coincidence that was seen as ironic, but actually deepens the complexity at hand. One of the intentions of raised awareness is to ensure that people with mental health challenges are integrated and understood within society, not banned from participating in TV shows.

Nor was all the backlash confined to managing mental health on television, there was a stench of snobbery in the air too. The phrase “lowest common denominator” was given a very predictable airing and much was said that was lazy, facile and riddled with middle-class resentments.

What was less in evidence in the thousands of columns about The Jeremy Kyle Show were answers to the big, intractable questions at the heart of “informed consent”. What types of mental illness should television professionals be alert to, on and off screen? What levels of severity are we to concern ourselves with? And what is “duty of care” in an increasingly complex neurological world?

Surely we cannot exclude people on their condition alone, thereby discriminating against depression, which many television professionals and presenters suffer from themselves?

One show that sprung to mind this week was Stephen Fry: The Secret Life Of A Manic Depressive, the two-part television documentary by Ross Wilson’s Matchlight Productions.

The National:

It is one of the most important shows to emerge from Scotland’s vibrant independent production. It was television that brought the challenges of bipolar disorders to a popular mainstream audience and was an example of great public service television in ways The Jeremy Kyle Show never was.

So, as ITV proceeds with its review, it should not use its decision to end the show as a way of camouflaging the mistakes that were made, nor should it rehearse the range of safeguards that were in play. However robust they were, they failed.

Set against all of this is the court of public opinion. The show has been vilified and reality TV as a genre has been casually demeaned. The many very good and socially responsible examples of the genre have been forgotten. Channel 4’s The Secret Life Of Four Years Olds is a reality show about child development, with off-stage observations from trained behavioural psychologists. It is much loved by new parents.

There is a lesson in there somewhere. We need a media culture that brings mental health and neurodiversity to the fore, but not one that places insurmountable barriers in front of people who simply want to be on telly.

It has been a week of complexities. Let’s not bludgeon them with crude simplicity.