Dr Alex George opens up about losing his younger brother to mental health during lockdown

Dr Alex George spoke about the death of his young brother today in a bid to help others suffering from mental health issues.

Speaking to Lorraine, he said: “Thank you so much for having me on the show. I wish I was speaking to you under a different circumstance really. It’s been the toughest time of my life imaginable. It’s something, I think, as a family we never expected. We were so excited for Llŷr who was going to medical school. I had him up in Lewisham hospital. I was really proud to have him with me on work experience and he loved it in A&E and the excitement of it. We were all just looking to the future and to hopefully this pandemic coming to an end and all the positive things that would happen." 

On how he heard the devastating news, he explained: “I was out at a restaurant when I found out. I went out for some food with my friends. I had a phone call from my dad. I could tell from the call, I said, ‘What’s happened who’s passed away?’ You could tell something bad had happened. When he said it was Llŷr the world sort of ended in a sense, everything, the world came down on my shoulders almost.”

He continued: “My little brother Elliot picked me up and we drove back to Wales. We sat in silence for five hours, each of us was crying and shouting and just letting out all this anguish, I guess. I went into different parts of my mind on that journey home. Really dark parts of your mind to be honest, just disbelief. I couldn’t believe this had happened.”

On what his 19-year-old brother was like, he added: “We were so excited for him. He was such a kind little boy. In some ways he was a little mini me. He had the same passions, he loved medicine, he loved science, he was a bit geeky like I am. He loved his cars as well.”

He added as a family they were so proud of him and it was a huge “shock”.

Alex continued :“Losing someone to mental health is obviously very tough…when someone is 19, [he had] a lot of things to look forward to. Mental health is like that it shocks, it’s one of the things that shocks me in my working career and it’s now shocked me in my own personal life. You can’t predict these things. Mental health can affect anyone. It’s so important to realise.”

On how he was coping and if he was struggling, thinking he could have done more, he said: “That’s the hard thing, I felt tremendous guilt. I’m a doctor, I’m the older brother. I always wanted to protect and look after him. What could I have done differently? I’m supposed to be a mental health advocate. It was just the worst thing. But as you say mental health and physical health are akin… it is an illness. That’s why it’s so important we treat it like that.”

Alex said he wanted to be honest about his brother had died, saying: “I wanted to be open about that because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is an illness like anything else." 

Despite it being a difficult time, he wanted to speak out in a bid to raise awareness, especially as so many people are under extra pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He explained:  “Now more than ever we need to look after ourselves, we have to be kind.”

During this time of grief, he added he had taken time offline and come off social media to focus on his family.  He has now gone back to work. He explained: “The hospital has been so kind to me, they’ve let me come back in a way to take my time and build up, it’s been very helpful.”

He said losing a child had been extremely difficult for his parents.

He added: “It’s more important than ever to me that we tackle mental health properly and do it in the right way. Going back has helped hugely.

“I’m passionately moving forward. My life is before and after what’s happened. I realise, I will never get over this.”

He urged: “I feel a real purpose… Just please everyone, if you are struggling, please reach out. There is always a chance for a better day, please reach out and ask for help. The pain of loss of this kind of thing is just immense, so please reach out”

For more information and resources on mental health visit ITV's Britain Get Talking page here.