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3 Feb, 2021 10:54

UK govt enlists Love Island star ‘Doctor Alex’ to advocate for youth mental health as children suffer from Covid-related woes

UK govt enlists Love Island star ‘Doctor Alex’ to advocate for youth mental health as children suffer from Covid-related woes

Alex George, a doctor who gained notoriety for his appearance on a popular dating show, has been tapped by the British government to help draft policies aimed at combating a mental health crisis among the nation’s youth.

The Prime Minister’s Office announced on Wednesday that Boris Johnson had appointed George as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador to help promote wellbeing among Britain’s young people. He will also sit on the newly-formed Mental Health in Education Action Group, chaired by Children’s Minister Vicky Ford and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan and tasked with bolstering mental health education in schools. 

Known as “Dr. Alex,” George became a minor celebrity after searching for love as a 2018 contestant on Love Island, the popular ITV2 dating show. 

Downing Street said that his “huge social media following among young people” made him an ideal candidate to speak on issues related to youth mental health and ensure children and teens receive the support they need at their schools and universities. 

The doctor became a passionate campaigner for mental health awareness and education after his brother took his own life last year. 

George told his nearly 190,000 Twitter followers that he would use the new role to make mental health a “priority for both current and future generations.” 

“Now more than ever we realise how fundamental this is. It’s time for change,” he wrote. Social media users showered him with congratulatory messages after learning about his new post. 

Like many countries, the UK has seen a surge of mental health-related issues among its citizenry, a crisis that has been attributed in part to the social isolation and the economic devastation caused by Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions. 

The Centre for Mental Health, a UK charity and research organization, predicted last month that as many as 500,000 previously healthy children under 18 will require mental health care due to the devastating economic, health and social consequences sparked by the pandemic. 

The estimate comes amid a number of troubling signs suggesting that the mental health crisis is accelerating. A newly-released study found that 31 percent of children in the UK are currently suffering with anxiety, stating that they are constantly worried.

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Last week, the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, warned that the NHS could not cope with a surge in mental health referrals among children. 

The pandemic and the government’s restrictive Covid-19 measures have taken a heavy toll on adults as well. According to new data released by the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), more people have died in England and Wales from drinking alcohol during the first three quarters of 2020 than at any other time in the past two decades.

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