Since finding fame on Love Island in the UK, Dr Alex George has become a nationally recognised campaigner for better mental health support. In 2021, during Children’s Mental Health week, Dr Alex was appointed the UK’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador, a role in which he safeguards the wellbeing of Britain’s most vulnerable.
Between his new position at 10 Downing Street and working for the NHS during a global pandemic, Dr Alex sat down with us for this exclusive interview on mental health. He revealed the stark realities of working in A&E during Covid-19 and how he uses OnlyFans to promote his powerful message of mental wellbeing.
What has it been like working for the NHS during a global pandemic and how have you kept your own mental health in check?
“It’s been really tough at times. Working on the front line I’ve seen some really, really difficult things. But we pulled together as a team, as a unit, as a department.
“I work in Lewisham A&E, and it’s been amazing how we’ve come together to support each other, but there’s no hiding the fact that it’s been tough.
“I’ve had to really practise what I preach, my own words in the book around self-care.
“Nature has been a godsend to me, going outside for walks, exercise, speaking with people – I’ve done so many FaceTimes over the last couple of months. And really, just taking time to unwind after a busy day in A&E or when I need some time to de-stress, I have my own little routine.
“I love a bath, I love a bath bomb, and I put some music on and that’s my de-stress. It really, really helps me relax; it helps me sleep.
“And again, it’s about finding what works for you and making sure you do invest in yourself.”
Recently you joined OnlyFans to share free mental health advice to its users – why did you decide to do this on that particular platform and what response have you received on social media?
“I think OnlyFans has a particular reputation in this country, but if you look at it globally, it was actually set up for creatives, music artists and people like that.
“It’s basically a platform that’s much more like a website than any other social media and you can put so much of your own content. I wanted to build a smaller community of people to create content around wellbeing and self-care – obviously, no paywalls. It’s there as a smaller hub rather than a bigger page like Instagram that has everything on it and different strands of things I do. It’s much more focused, which I quite like.
“Mixing with people, some are like, ‘oh, you’re on OnlyFans’, but if you go on the page and see what I’m posting, then you’ll see that it’s very different.
“I actually quite like that in a way. I like the fact that I’m on a platform that certain people have a stereotypical view of what it is, but I’m doing something different.”
Where do you see yourself heading in the future – do you hope to remain in the NHS or focus more on your Mental Health work with the PM or investigate ventures of your own?
“I think my biggest focus at the moment is the [Mental Health Ambassador] role.
“I think that’s very important to me at the moment. I won’t be doing it forever, so I think while I am doing it, let’s focus on that.
“I’ll be continuing to do shifts in A&E. I really enjoy that it grounds me so I will continue to do that. But moving forward, I think the [Mental Health Ambassador] role is my main focus now.
“I’m excited as I’ve got some projects with Prescrib’d, my bath bomb company, which is going really well – I am excited to see that grow.
“And of course, in my book as well, my career as an author – which is a very odd thing to say – but continuing with that, I think there will certainly be more books to come!”
Were you an advocate for mental health before stepping into the public eye on ‘Love Island’, or has this become more prevalent through your own experiences?
“I think my focus around mental health started at university.
“So in my fourth year, I studied in Exeter and while on placement, some of us went down to Truro, Cornwall. Beautiful part of the world, beautiful beaches, but actually, I was quite isolated, and I really became quite lost and stuck in a rut.
“I wasn’t feeling very good – probably had very mild depression at the time – and I lost interest in my sports and exercise. I wasn’t going out walking, my eating was terrible, and my sleep was even worse. I was losing myself.
“I felt too ashamed to speak to the medical school because I thought the [medical] school wouldn’t let me graduate if I spoke to them, so I eventually called my family.
“I called my mum and said, ‘this is how I feel’. And she said, ‘you’re not doing the things that actually would keep you feeling good, so let’s talk about how you feel each day, keep an eye on things, but let’s also build these routines up’.
“So I started exercising again, I made sure to walk every single day to get some natural light and see my friends and make plans to do things with them. I created a sleep routine; time getting up in the morning, time going to bed. I planned my meals. It’s all very simple stuff, really, but it made a huge, huge difference. And within weeks, I felt so much better and more myself again.
“Fast forward to working in A&E, I work in Lewisham, I just think so many of my patients don’t have those tools. They don’t have that knowledge; they don’t have that awareness of the things they can actually do to help themselves.
“And that’s, I think, where my real focus started. Since [Love Island], the platform I’ve had is really big and I’ve been trying to use that to raise awareness, to support charities and of course, promote positive messages around self-care.”
What has been the highlight of your career?
“That’s very hard, just because I think it’s all quite different. Ultimately, I’m probably most proud of being a doctor, but I would also say the Youth Mental Health Role.
“Doing something that hasn’t been done before, it didn’t exist before, and I’m sitting there with the Prime Minister in the middle of a pandemic in that role. I think it gives me the opportunity to hopefully do something and potentially help some people’s lives.
“I think that for me, that’s got to be the biggest thing.”