‘A Trauma Bond’: The Block’s Sharon & Ankur On How Filming The Show Impacted Their Mental Health

From going into the competition with no building experience, to overspending their budget and not finishing renovations, The Block: Tree Change contestants Sharon Johal and Ankur Dogra have had a rough trot on the program this year.
According to former Neighbours actor Johal, filming the reality TV show was not only a far cry from working on a scripted drama, but a lot more emotional and mentally draining than some viewers may realise.
Image courtesy of Channel 9
The Block: Tree Change contestants Ankur Dogra and Sharon Johal
"There's a massive TV production element to the show, which I didn't actually foresee. I was just like, 'Well, you're going to be building a house and it's like a doco'," the 35-year-old tells Refinery29 Australia. "But it's not really that.
"You're on no sleep and you're put under all these different amounts of pressure in order to evoke certain reactions and emotions.
"I'm an actress, so I keep my emotions and vulnerabilities very much at the forefront all the time," Johal continues, reflecting on various times audiences would have seen her cry this season.
Despite having tradies on hand to help transform a 500-square metre homestead, Johal says managing these teams and navigating the filming schedule is the most challenging part and at times she struggled to cope.
"Unfortunately, there are no breaks. You would be mic'd up from six in the morning until 11 at night," the TV star explains. "I'd have conversations with producers about it to say, 'Look, I'm at my limit now and I really can't go on. I need a break.'
"On top of that, you're on no sleep. You're not really looking after your body, nutrition-wise, and you're already cold — it's out in the elements and you're in the mud."
Johal says the process was "brutal" for "everybody including the production and crew", and it definitely took a toll on her mental health.
"It's really difficult and literally you're on your own," she explains. "So you've got to find a way to support yourself throughout the experience. And I was really lucky in that I had Ankur with me. He's my rock and he did so well in supporting me."
Johal and husband Dogra got married in 2018. Despite having been together for over a decade, it's The Block that brought them closer together than ever as they waved the "traumatic" hardships in filming the show as a solid unit.
"I didn't think we could get closer because we literally live in each other's pockets, but it's a bonding experience like no other," says Johal. "It's like a trauma bond, really. You go through it together and you never forget the moments and the support [we gave each other]."
In September Johal shared an Instagram post on RU OK? Day, explaining she and her husband's mental health had been impacted not only while filming the show, but once it started airing when they received criticism from some viewers based on what they saw on TV.
"We clearly weren’t okay then as we aren’t okay now, having to experience ourselves not being represented for who we are causing hatred, character assassination, racial vilification and trolling on a national scale affecting not only us but sadly, our family and friends too," she wrote on the social media platform.

"I'd have conversations with producers about it and say, 'Look, I'm at my limit now and I really can't go on. I need a break.'"

sharon johal
A Nine spokesperson told Refinery29 Australia that the network "takes its obligations in respect to the health and wellbeing of the participants on The Block extremely seriously."
"All participants have access to the show support service during filming, during broadcast and once the program has ended," they said.
"Nine also has 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."
Johal and Ankur are one of five teams going into the grand finale auction on Sunday night, where their revamped property in Gisborne South in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges will be up for sale. The other pairs are Sarah-Jane and Tom, Dylan and Jenny, Omar and Oz, and Rachel and Ryan, who replaced Elle Ferguson and Joel Patfull, while the hosts of the show are Scott Cam and Shelley Craft.
Each house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms and four parking spots, with whopping price guides of $4 million to $4.4 million ahead of the auctions. The winner of The Block will receive $100,000 in prize money, along with whatever profit the couple's home makes on auction day.
The Block: Tree Change grand finale airs on Sunday, November 6 at 7pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety, please contact Lifeline (131 114) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636). Support is available 24/7. 
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