Dr Alex George and his #PostYourPill campaign sparks an important discussion on mental health and medication stigma

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

2 months ago

It’s nearly 2022, and while there’s still a stigma around mental illnesses, the conversation around mental health has improved over the past few years. In the UK, former Love Island contestant and NHS doctor Dr Alex George is one of the leaders of the movement. Earlier this week, he started a mental health campaign which has been making waves on social media as he has encouraged people to #PostYourPill to “​​take a stand against medication stigma.”

Nearly 3,000 people have joined the movement since Dr Alex created the hashtag on 27 November. In the initial post, he discussed how he takes medication, goes to therapy and practices self-care for his anxiety. He also noted how in a recent Instagram poll, 75% of respondents said they faced medication stigma. “How many people are not getting the treatments they need AND deserve because of this very stigma?” He asked. “This HAS to change. This post is not about saying medication is the ‘answer’ for everyone, rather to say that for those who need it should have access without barriers or shame.” Since launching the campaign, he has set up a dedicated Instagram page and the movement has also seen activity on Twitter and TikTok.

Since then, other influencers have come forward to support the movement and open up about their mental health. ​​Former Love Islander Malin Andersson is a mental health advocate and was inspired by Dr Alex to share a photo of her anti-depressant medication. She also discussed suffering from pre-natal depression and suicidal thoughts in her second trimester of pregnancy as well as having intrusive thoughts. Georgie ClarkeSophie Grace HolmesLottie Bedlow and Kim-Joy, have also posted photos of their medication in support of the campaign. If their posts can help even just one of their followers, the campaign has already been a success.

#PostYourPill is a refreshing and important movement, but there’s also some privilege involved. Getting treatment and accessing medication can take months or even years in the UK. A 2018 article by The Independent found some people with severe mental illness waited up to two years for treatment, and according to a study by charity Engage Britain, 25% of people said waiting times had harmed their mental health. That said, Dr Alex emphasised #PostYourPill is not a pro-medication campaign but instead aims to remove the barriers for treatment.

The campaign comes from a good place and is making a positive difference, but posting images of medication can lead to discrimination at work and people can also lose out on jobs for revealing their mental illness. As Metro reported, a study by Rethink Mental Illness found out of of 500 adults who make or directly influence hiring decisions, ​​”83% would worry that someone with severe mental illness wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job.” Posting an image of your medication can help end the stigma and encourage people to seek help, but it can also have consequences. Can only influencers and those who are job-secured participate? No, but it might be wise for some.

To be frank, it’s rare to see anyone coming out of the Love Island villa making a positive social impact, but Dr Alex has been actively discussing mental health on social media and championing for better mental health services in the UK since appearing on the show in 2018. Earlier this year he was named as Downing Street’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador and presented BBC Children in Need’s documentary, Our Young Mental Health Crisis.

#PostYourPill is helping push forward a critical movement and the influencers and fellow creators participating are helping end the stigma around medication one post at a time. There’s still a long way to go, but thanks to influencers being open about their mental health, we’re getting one step closer.

By Caroline Edwards, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Dr Alex George via Instagram