Comment Writer Emma Davis discusses the recent appointment of Love Island’s Dr. Alex George as an ambassador of mental health, arguing that whilst it could simply be a publicity stunt from the government, it will help to create real change

Written by Emma Davis
Life&Style Editor, Final Year English Literature Student
Last updated
Images by Korng Sok

Content Warning – This article makes mention to suicide. 

Last week it was announced by Downing Street that Dr. Alex George, Love Island alumni, and A&E Doctor, has been appointed to the unpaid position of mental health ambassador. Taking to both Twitter and Instagram to announce his position, Dr. Alex wrote of the importance of making mental health a priority for both future and current generations. Although Dr. Alex himself is passionate about this topic, it is notable that the government has appointed a doctor who seems to have no specialism in mental health, but has a large social media platform. Is this anything more than a publicity stunt from Downing Street, designed to appease the demand for increased mental health provisions during the pandemic, or does it signal a much-needed shift in government attitude towards mental health? 

It is, perhaps, unfair to assume that Dr. Alex’s status as an ‘influencer’ has standing in his appointment. However, the 2019 Conservative manifesto outlined increased action for mental health services, promising to prioritise the provisions and support. A year later, NHS bosses accused Boris Johnson of ‘structural discrimination’ against mental health and of ignoring the psychological impact of the pandemic. Indeed, it is clear to see the government focus has somewhat bypassed mental health during the pandemic; only £9.2 million was given to health charities – a minute contribution compared to the half a billion pounds spent on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. These examples demonstrate the fundamentally flawed outlook of the government towards mental health. 

The government focus has somewhat bypassed mental health during the pandemic

By appointing Dr. Alex as an ambassador for mental health, the government can potentially appease those demanding further support in the most public way possible. Dr. Alex has 1.8 million followers on Instagram alone, and his post about his new role amassed over a million likes. The attention surrounding the new governmental position is seemingly unprecedented and shows the clever publicity behind the governmental intervention on mental health. In a recent statement, Boris Johnson stated that Dr. Alex’s role would focus on children and young people, as the pandemic ‘has understandably had a huge impact on their mental health’ and therefore, the Prime Minister wants ‘to shine a spotlight on this vital issue ahead of their return to school.’ This goal should not be simply performative, it should instead be fought for because of the overwhelming impact mental health is having topically – something that Dr. Alex is acutely aware of.

Indeed, mental health is a cause deeply close to Dr. Alex’s heart after having lost his brother last year to suicide. Dr. Alex stated that ‘nothing will bring my brother back but if I can make a positive impact that saves even one life, it will be worth moving mountains for.’ This heartfelt sentiment demonstrates that, despite although he does not have a speciality in mental health, Dr. Alex cares deeply for the cause. His target audience, namely children and young people, do not need specialist definitions or clinical terms, but rather somebody who can educate and aid them. Through his manifold campaigns across Instagram and TikTok, Dr. Alex raises awareness of a variety of health issues in an accessible and relevant manner. 

Dr. Alex raises awareness of a variety of health issues in an accessible and relevant manner

Furthermore, during the recent scandal surrounding influencers flying to Dubai for ‘essential work’ in the midst of the pandemic, Dr. Alex has remained fighting coronavirus on the front lines of A&E, earning himself far more respect; many users have praised him for using his platform and ‘influencer’ status in a beneficial way. This praise demonstrates why Dr. Alex was a good choice for the ambassador for the role, as his vast, and largely young, social media following is supportive of his efforts and are therefore more likely to benefit from his advice, signposting, and support. 

Hopefully, this is only the beginning of a governmental move towards a prioritisation of the mental health crisis. Dr. Alex’s role follows the introduction of a number of government support initiatives aimed at addressing the mental impact of the pandemic on young people, such as the wellbeing for education return project and the introduction of 180 mental health support teams across the UK. The appointment of Dr. Alex to this role is a useful one, regardless of the government’s intention, not only due to Dr. Alex’s extensive social reach but also because of his genuine drive for change. His personal attachment to mental health and his desire to help young people overcome their mental struggles can only be beneficial in the long-term. 


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