LOVE Island’s Dr Alex George has opened up about the dark side of social media and how to deal with trolls after the untimely death of co-star Mike Thalassitis.
The 28-year-old said that sites like Facebook and Instagram harbour a “toxic environment” – not just for celebrities – which is impacting people’s mental health.
Getty Images – Getty Dr Alex George, who was a contestant on last year’s Love Island, has been offering his advice on how to deal with online bullies and trolls
Rex Features Love Island star Mike Thalassitis was found hanged in a park in London on Sunday
Alex, who appeared on Love Island last summer, has been on the receiving end of nasty and abusive messages and says more needs to be done to prevent online bullying.
He’s offered his advice after Mike, who was a contestant on the show the previous year, was found hanged following a secret six month battle with depression.
‘It can happen to anyone’
Speaking to Sun Online, the junior A&E doctor said: “It’s not just about the reality TV stars.
“It’s a much wider issue and we need to take a much wider approach to tackle it going forward.
“Whether you have got 10 follower or 10,000 followers, the way people chat to each other these days can be so horrible.”
I’ve had things written about me, even while I was on the show and couldn’t defend myself. But I’ve become quite thick-skinned to itDr Alex George
He added: “People use social media as a way to vent and say whatever they want to say regardless of who is on the other end of the phone.
“We’ve lost the sense of using social media for connecting with friends, catching up, voicing our beliefs – there’s no doubt about it.
“I’ve had things written about me, even while I was on the show and couldn’t defend myself. But I’ve become quite thick-skinned to it.”
Dr Alex’s advice for those experiencing online bullying
Dr Alex says no one should have to tolerate bullying in any form, but there a number of steps that can be taken to tackle it online. Here’s his advice…
Report it to the apps
Tell someone – confide in someone that this is happening
Put the phone down – it’s hard to do but step away from your device
Unfollow people – if you don’t want them to know there are ways you can mute them
Block abusive behaviour or comments
Dr Alex added: “For men, they can feel uncomfortable talking to someone they know but there are other places to turn.
“The Samaritans are always there to talk to and offer that bit of advice.”
Alex revealed he was also bullied at school, but said that his home was his “sanctuary” and nowadays things are very different for children.
He said: “I was bullied during my first year of secondary school. It was old-fashioned name-calling, sometimes it would be physical, which is why I’m so avidly against bullying.
“But for young people now it’s happening at school and then when they get home it continues. It’s a toxic environment.”
How to deal with bullying
Alex added: “No one should go through it, we have the right to a happy childhood – and adulthood. It’s not weak to seek support.
“I ended up getting support through the school and I had friends, and eventually I told my parents and we dealt with it.”
For young people now it’s happening at school and then when they get home it continues… it’s a toxic environmentDr Alex George
Almost half of young people have received nasty profile comments, while 62 per cent say they have been sent horrible private messages, according to a survey by Ditch The Label.
But bullying doesn’t just affect schoolchildren – it can happen at any stage in life and for many it can lead to feelings of depression, self-harm and tragically in some cases, suicide.
The Sun Online launched the You’re Not Alone suicide prevention campaign last year to remind those in the grips of mental illness that there is hope – and raise awareness to encourage people suffering to speak up.
The reality star, who is originally from Carmarthen, Wales, said that with better education it is possible to use social networking sites for good.
Dr Alex’s tips for parents or loved-ones concerned someone might be experiencing online bullyingDr Alex said if you’re worried someone you know might be getting trolled or bullied online, ask them if they’re okay – and sometimes ask it again.
He said: “Sometimes when you ask someone how they are they will say they’re fine when they’re not.
“Often if you ask again they’ll tell you a bit more. Doing this can get people to open up. It’s also about being there and hearing their problems.”
Dr Alex says it can be a bit trickier for parents and it’s all about striking the right balance.
He said: “For parents, it can be hard. If you go in and take an overarching approach they can close up.
“So you need to deal with it in a very calm way. Find out whether it’s just online or is it happening at school and from there making a plan of action.
“Decide whether you need to speak to the school while keeping your child happy.”
He said: “We can’t just blame social media – I actually believe it’s a fantastic tool. But it needs to start with better education around it.
“To my knowledge, there’s no education about dealing with trolling in schools and universities, and there’s little help and support for people going through it.
“It’s easy to write bad things and get caught up in it, but it’s realising what these comments can cause.”
More work to do
Alex said that while the stigma surrounding discussions of mental health is being broken down, more could be done.
“It’s great we’re having more awareness, but there’s a lot more work to do than that.
“In fact, figures show two in five men don’t feel like they can speak out. So, it’s not just getting rid of the stigma, it’s allowing them to have a place they can go to and speak.
“But it’s no secret that our mental health services are overstretched and there are finite resources. So we need to look at the way the health service is funded.”
Dr Alex’s said his top advice to deal with trolls is to confide in someone.
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He said: “Just remember, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling, talk to someone.
“If you can’t speak to people in your inner circle then there are other places you can go.
“Workplaces will have support, schools, colleges and universities have facilities and there are of course charities like the Samaritans.”
If you or a loved one are affected by mental health problems, or suicidal thoughts, call the Samaritans helpline on 116 123
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
Rex Features Dr Alex and Alexandra Cane, who were coupled up on the show, appearing on Love Island
The Mega Agency Alex George says more needs to be done to help people who are being bullied or trolled online
Splash News Dr Alex has urged anyone who is being bullied to speak out and seek help
After Love Island’s Mike Thalassitis is found dead… 10 signs your loved one is at risk of suicide