From a young age, Dr Alex George knew he wanted to work in A&E, but now he’s also championing everyday self-care needs for the nation, and helping to shape the government’s mental health agenda. Oh, and he’s a creator of bath bombs on the side…
The day before Dr Alex George and I are due to speak, he announces on social media that he’s going to take some much needed time off work.
“I always want to be honest with you guys, and the last thing I want is for my page to be a highlight of good days, hiding the bad,” he wrote on Instagram. “It’s been a long and hard year, which ultimately takes its toll. I have really felt it this week, and I am aware I need a break. I am taking a full week off from Tuesday. Recognising when you are becoming stressed and acting on it, is so important.”
Despite offers to rearrange, Alex arrives on Zoom for his interview, telling me that he’s more than happy to chat as he knows he has downtime in the coming days. He has an immediate kind, self-assuredness that I can only imagine is incredibly important for the many roles he inhabits – a London-based A&E doctor, government Youth Mental Health Ambassador, founder of bath bomb and self-care brand Prescrib’d, as well as an author and influencer with more than 1.9 million followers.
Alex’s super busy and high profile life is a far cry from his childhood days. Born in a small town in West Wales, he spent his early years playing in the local countryside before studying at the Peninsula Medical School where, he says, he regularly enjoyed everything the surrounding Devon and Cornwall coastline offered. Despite being surrounded by rural beauty, however, he was intent on moving to the ‘Big Smoke’ to fulfill his ambitions as soon as he graduated.
“I wanted to be a doctor from the age of 13,” Alex explains. “I watched the early days of City Hospital, which was the first example of a programme like 24 Hours in A&E. I loved the idea of combining medicine, people, and the adrenaline. I’m quite a type A personality, and I enjoy the thrill that comes with being in that space.”
Working in A&E, despite the obvious stresses and huge pressure, holds a special place in Alex’s heart. “There’s a team atmosphere, and you really enjoy a sense of working closely with people. Although the past year has been difficult, we’ve all learned a lot, in particular about mental health, wellbeing, and looking after ourselves.”
But Alex’s focus on mental health began way before the pandemic. He’s been talking publicly about wellbeing since 2019, when he became an advocate for Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign, after his stint on ITV’s Love Island.
Last year, Alex’s advocacy gained greater momentum, after his brother Llŷr died by suicide.
“I really want, in particular since losing my brother, to bring even more of a spotlight on the issues surrounding mental health,” he explains. “There are so many people, experts, charities, and organisations out there already doing such amazing work, so for me, it’s about shining a light on the work they’re doing too, because the more we can build momentum, the more we’ll bring positive change, destigmatise mental health, and hopefully have some brighter days to come.
“As I grew up, I felt as if there was very little or no education around wellbeing, self-care, what mental health is, how to manage thoughts, build resilience, and manage life’s troubles,” Alex notes. “In my role as the government’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador, I really want to normalise these conversations and focus on the curriculum.”
Outside of his hospital and ambassadorial work, Alex is hoping to reach people with helpful advice, with his new book, Live Well Every day: Your Plan for a Happy Body and Mind.
“It’s not about a blueprint for happiness,” he says emphatically. “It’s not about what perfection in life is, and if you follow this plan you’ll be forever happy. It’s about giving people the tools in different areas of their lives, so they might be able to make small adjustments which could add up to being healthier and happier.”
Alex understands how the pressure of life can impact mental wellbeing, and says he is all too aware of when he personally needs to change something in order to improve his day-to-day mood. Part of knowing what keeps him well, he says, is remembering what happened when he stopped any form of self-care in his late teens.
“At one point, when I was at University, I stopped going out walking, I wasn’t exercising, I was eating badly, sleeping badly, not talking to my friends, and I’d lost interest in my studies. Basically I’d stopped doing all of the things that anchored me.
“So I spoke to my family, and we worked out what I needed to bring back into my life again. After a few weeks, I started to feel better, and I realised that I needed to take care of myself, because I couldn’t expect that I would operate on ‘empty’.”
This lesson has come back to him of late, hence his post about taking a break on Instagram.
“The Catch-22 is that I’m someone who is really driven. I want to make progress and there’s lots of things that I’m passionate about, so I can have a tendency to overwork,” Alex says. “Mental health is a very emotive space, especially with my own personal experience,” Alex continues, referring to the death of Llŷr in July 2020. “And even as passionate as I am, it can become quite taxing and tiring.”
There’s a real sense of Alex’s drive and energy, however, when he starts to talk about what “doing more” involves. He recently launched bath bomb and self-care company Prescrib’d, and is donating a percentage of the profits from a number of products to the youth mental health charity Young Minds.
“I love my bath bombs!” He laughs. “It all started because of a friend of mine at Lewisham Hospital. She told me that I was working too hard and needed to chill, and she brought me a bath bomb. I thought it was brilliant, and realised I was genuinely passionate about bath bombs.”
Alex beams as he shares that the recent launch of Prescrib’d went down really well, and he’s keen to impart what makes a good, and bad bath, bomb.
“Ours are 100% vegan, plastic and cruelty-free. I have a checklist when it comes to what I want in all our products. They can’t be slimy, I don’t like glittery ones, because that stays on your body, and very importantly it cannot stain the bath.”
After discussing mental health and the difficulties of the past year, it’s wonderful to see the joy this venture brings Alex.
“There’s a point in all this though,” he says seriously after our bath bomb run-down ends. “Life’s a journey and your path might change from when you were 13 to when you’re 30. It’s about following your instincts, and what truly matters to you.”
‘Live Well Every day: Your Plan for a Happy Body and Mind’ by Dr Alex George (Octopus Publishing, £15.99).
Hero image | Photography by Andrew Burton
To connect with a counsellor to discuss your own mental health, visit counselling-directory.org.uk