Alex George has said he will never get over the death of his teenage brother and said he has felt “tremendous guilt” in the aftermath.
The Love Island star has spoken candidly about his grief over the death in July of 19-year-old Llyr, who was due to begin studying at medical school.
Dr George, who is an A&E doctor and has documented his experience working in the healthcare system during the coronavirus pandemic, told ITV’s Lorraine: “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.”
Asked how he is coping, 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.”
He added: “I wanted to be open about that because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is an illness like anything else.”
He said he has since gone back to work at Lewisham Hospital in south-east London, adding: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Dr George said when he got the phone call from his father he could tell straight away that “something bad had happened”.
“When he said it was Llyr, 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.”
Dr George later wrote on Instagram: “Today was so so hard and not something I ever thought I would have to face.
“I miss Llyr so much. I want to say how grateful I am for all of your support and kindness throughout this time and a huge thank you to @lorraine and the team for being so supportive.
“Now it’s time we make real change in how we approach mental health. I want to see a ‘mental health toolkit’ created for schools and universities.
“My goal is that teaching on mental wellbeing, self care and what to do when you are struggling, is taught from the very beginning.
“I need your help and support to make this a reality. It won’t be easy but we can do it together. Who’s with me?”
Additional reporting by Press Association.