Dr Alex George shares the quote that 'got him through' grief of brother's death

·4 min read
Programme Name: Dr Alex: Our Mental Health Crisis - TX: n/a - Episode: Dr Alex: Our Mental Health Crisis (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Dr Alex George - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Limited - Photographer: Ryan McNamara
Dr Alex George in the BBC programme: Our Mental Health Crisis (Dragonfly Film & Television Limited)

Dr Alex George has described his family and friends as his 'lifeline' following the death of his younger brother, thanking the person who sent him the quote which 'got him through it'.

The former Love Island star, now the government's Youth Mental Health Ambassador, spoke to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time about losing his brother Llŷr to suicide in 2020.

He described an 'amazing' consultant he knew called Nigel Harrison, who sent him a quote in a text message just after the tragic death of the 19-year-old.

"I think it genuinely got me through that time," he told Thornton, before reading the quote in full: "Life throws us into the deep end at times.

"However, with the help of family and friends, we overcome even the most seemingly insurmountable challenges."

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George said he loved the quote because at the most difficult times, sometimes when we can't see a way out, those around us can "say something or they do something, and to them, it could seem the smallest thing.

"But to you, it's your lifeline. And that's what it was to me. So thank you Mr Nigel Harrison."

Speaking openly about the weeks afterwards, he said his brother's death 'stripped him back bare' and he was just trying to get out of bed, have a shower and walk outside, before building any other things back into his routine.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Dr Alex George visits
Dr Alex George visits "Where's Your Head At?" Bauer Media's campaign, 2019. (Ian Lawrence X/Getty Images)

He said he reflected on how important the fundamental things are during his grief, but also that it was important to be able to teach people to recognise these things so they could use them in good times and bad.

Listen to the full episode to hear Dr Alex talk about how he was finally persuaded to go into the Love Island villa and his new book to promote better children's mental health

"When you're grieving, probably more important than ever, you need to sleep. Your brain is drained, it's exhausted," he added.

"It's been through a trauma, it needs to rest. So sleep's really important. The biggest two things for me were nature and talking.

"Being in nature, being outside, made me feel connected with the world when I felt disconnected. And talking is just so powerful."

The mental health ambassador also said in the podcast that he believed everyone should have therapy and could benefit from looking at how they process things.

Comparing grief to like marathon training, he said you wouldn't just wake up one day and decide to run a marathon.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13:    Dr Alex George attends the Global Citizen Prize at Royal Albert Hall on December 13, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Dr Alex George at the Global Citizen Prize at Royal Albert Hall in 2019. (Getty Images)

"What grief does is it knocks you back to the point where you forget how to walk almost," George said.

"You've got to build yourself up into getting out of bed walking, slowly jogging, then building up the miles.

"Eventually you do that marathon, that marathon you could imagine as life I guess, and getting back to life."

The responsibility towards his parents was a 'big part of the reason he survived' that period, he said saying his purpose at that time was to keep the family going and 'pull them together'.

Read more: Dr Alex George posts heartfelt tribute message to late brother Llŷr on his birthday

"They were like children, in the sense that they were taken back to being like children in terms of their emotional state," he explained.

He described two and three-hour drives he used to take his mum on so she could have space to talk through her feelings as 'exhausting'.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Kate Thornton, Dr. Alex George and Michelle Heaton during the 'Stand Up to Cancer' BUILD panel discussion on September 19, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Kate Thornton, Dr Alex George and Michelle Heaton during a 'Stand Up to Cancer' panel discussion in 2018. (Getty Images)

"It was almost like self harm," he added, "because I was it was damaging myself by doing it over and over again.

"So many of the thoughts are repetitive, because they're so deeply ingrained, especially immediately [after the death] when you're a state of shock."

He said his parents are now working and campaigning, with his mum starting Knit for Mental Health which has raised around £80,000 for mental health charities, while his dad had been 'tinkering with bikes'.

"There's so much stuff that they're doing now, good things, joy they get out of life. It's the nightmare that never ends in many ways, and there is always gonna be a part of you that will always carry it. But they still get joy out of life, the world.

"To anyone who's listening, you really can go through some pretty rough stuff and come out the other side. I love the saying: 'This too shall pass'."

For confidential emotional support contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org.

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