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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
Keeping the Big Brother house sane
First ten contestants
All contestants had their mental stability scrutinised
As the evictions tally grows in the Big Brother house the tension is beginning to show.

Viewers have already seen tears, screaming matches and tantrums as the toll of living together 24/7 starts to wear on the housemates.

Penny, Brian, Amma and Stuart have all had bust-ups and viewers are waiting to see who will crack-up first.

BBC News Online's Jane Elliott looks at how the producers keep their charges sane.

Every single one of the 11 Big Brother contestants has been screened for mental toughness.

All underwent stringent psychological tests to ensure they were capable of coping with the pressure of life in front of the cameras.

And all are closely monitored to ensure that their daily struggles do not become simply an excuse for gratuitous viewing.

We have to be convinced that people are strong enough to cope with going in

Jeremy Phillips, of Big Brother
Series producer Jeremy Phillips explained that keeping the contestants sane was a top priority.

"The last 70 short-listed for the show were seen by a psycho-therapist and he spent a lot of time with them deciding whether they were robust enough to go into the house.

"It is after all a popularity show. You are asking people to bond with other people and then to stab them in the back.

The newest contestant Josh and Brian have been tense with each other

"You have to be sure that when you send these people in that it is not a likelihood that they will have problems."

Mr Phillips said anyone who had recently suffered a rejection that they had not come to terms with would not be selected.

"We wanted people who were strong enough to cope with the deprivation and isolation from the world, being surrounded by the cameras and the moments of feeling unhappy in the house.

"We have to be convinced that people are strong enough to cope with going in."


But the Big Brother team is prepared to leave nothing to chance when it comes to keeping its charges sane.

Contestants have a psychotherapist on hand to chat confidentially to them and if necessary pull them out if things get too bad.

Teacher Penny was the first to be evicted from the house after just two weeks cooped up with her fellow house-mates.

The toll had clearly begun to show on her as her behaviour become more and more erratic.

Mr Phillips said she felt the rest of the house had turned against her and that had she not been evicted first he would have called on fellow housemates to show her some compassion.

Paul was closely watched after being nominated four times

"We were obviously aware that she was under a great deal of pressure. But she was evicted early so she did not unravel as much as she might have done.

"Had she stayed in the house I would have asked the house-mates to be as supportive to her as possible."

But he stressed that now Penny had left the house she had not been dumped by the team, who were still monitoring her mental welfare.

Before an evicted house-mate goes before the world's media they are de-briefed by the psychotherapist, this is then followed up by an in-depth meeting later in the week.

Penny was said to be coping extremely well with her new-found fame, but Mr Phillips said they were monitoring her progress closely.

"We have seen her a couple of times since she came out and she seems happy.

"We watch them all closely as they are under a lot of pressure. The pressure is now beginning to tell on everybody.

"We were particularly watching Paul as he has now been nominated for eviction four times."

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