"Love Island" might be back on our screens already with an All Stars edition, but former Islander Dr Alex George has opted to forgo a second round on reality TV. Instead, the doctor is continuing to spread awareness as a mental health advocate, addressing all things from lack of professional access and education to the stigma of medication and inequality. And as new year wellness takes centre stage, it's the optimum time to catch up.
"People usually get really unwell before they seek help with their mental health, but in recent years that has changed, especially with the pandemic, where we are moving towards preventive care and finding the root of the issues," Dr Alex tells POPSUGAR. While undoubtedly a positive that people are opening up and seeking help, there is still work to be done, especially with gender inequality.
Dr Alex has a renewed focus on how men manage their mental health, a topic particularly close to his heart after losing his brother to suicide in 2020. "Society craves men to speak, but trains men to be silent," Dr. Alex says. Societal stereotypes often discourage men from openly discussing their vulnerabilities and, as a result, many feel like they need to remain silent about their challenges or face judgement for taking medication that will improve their symptoms. Research by The Priory Group found that 40 percent of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health.
"Society socialises women to speak up, but we have to approach men in different ways and that means sometimes going to them."
"I started the #PostYourPill anti-stigma campaign on social media to empower anyone who needs medication therapy not to feel embarrassed," Dr Alex says. The #PostYourPill campaign, launched in 2021, has garnered over 10,000 posts on Instagram thus far and has been creating an important shift in how men are proactively discussing their mental health struggles.
"A lot of men, even those who look 'macho' with tattoos and biceps, are posting their medication," Dr. Alex says. "I have thousands of DMs from people telling me how it has helped them feel comfortable about their circumstances. In fact, many men even come up to me in the street and share how they sought help since seeing the posts."
To take the conversation further, he has co-founded a new app called Mettle, designed specifically for men to transform their mental fitness. The app is born out of a collaborative effort with clinicians and tech-based experts to help provide the tools to improve meaningful interpersonal relationships and overall happiness.
"Mettle means resilience. Society socialises women to speak up, but we have to approach men in different ways and that means sometimes going to them," Dr Alex explains. "This app is tailored towards helping men build fundamental tools to become resilient in the face of struggles." Whether you have a partner, brother, friend, or family member who finds it difficult to talk about how they are feeling, point out there are resources available, like Mettle.
Mental health needs constant attention, and Dr Alex has been open about improving his own, having made the decision to ditch alcohol over a year ago after realising it was not an appropriate coping mechanism for him to deal with the aftermath of losing his brother and being in the public eye. "Even if others label it as 'normal drinking', I was drinking enough that it was affecting my life," he shares, as he joins a growing roster of sober celebrities. "Even if it was just 2 or 3 drinks, it meant I was not exercising, eating badly, or sleeping terribly. It's not about how much you drink but what it does for your life. I wasn't dealing with my issues or facing my demons."
Yet it's not always easy, especially when social drinking is so ingrained in British culture. "Not drinking is not restrictive and I want people to go out and do fun things especially because they'll have more money to explore new hobbies. Those who focus on enrichment will see why not drinking is great, and those that don't will get bored," he says. Not drinking has also allowed for many positive changes in his life. "I still go out and socialise because I don't get hungover. I'm more productive and calmer than I have been. I lost 6 stone in weight, my blood pressure is lower, my resting heart rate has improved..."
Though trends like Dry January or Sober October have become increasingly popular, Dr Alex is keen to stress that changes can happen at any time and not just designated months. His biggest tip for sticking to goals? "Know your why," he urges. "Understand what your purpose is behind doing something, and stick with it."
As we move further into 2024, it's imperative that we make this the year for prioritising mental health. Whether we look to Loud Budgeting as a means to help with financial wellbeing, deep dive into how we manage stress, address sleep patterns, or find support among others, there's nothing like the present for making the moves to a happier and healthier you. "My work on social media and my podcast is focused towards destigmatising mental health issues," Dr Alex says. "The biggest barrier continues to be shame and it's time we collectively are open about this topic and seek help."
Mettle is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store now. Users get a 14-day free trial, thereafter subscriptions are available for £13 a month, £100 annually. As a launch offer, users will also get 50 percent off when they subscribe.