Dr Alex George ’opened up’ talks about youth mental health challenges

Dr Alex George, best-selling author and Youth Mental Health Ambassador to the UK Government, has given Cardiff University’s inaugural Cardiff Conversations lecture, which shone a spotlight on the mental health challenges that young people face.

The event, which took place on Wednesday 8 May at the Centre for Student Life, welcomed over 350 attendees in person, and more than 100 watching online via a live stream.

During the event, Alex shared insights into his professional and personal encounters with mental health challenges, emphasising his commitment to dismantling the stigma surrounding it. He discussed the vital need to enhance mental health services for future generations, along with his advocacy for the expansion of Early Support Hubs nationwide in the UK.

Following his keynote address, Alex joined three leading Cardiff University mental health academics - Professor Frances Rice, Professor Anita Thapar, and Dr Olakunle Oginni - for an expert panel and Q&A session. The panel shared their expert insight into youth mental health, and answered questions from a research and scientific perspective, highlighting the ground-breaking mental health and neuroscience research taking place across the University.

The event closed with a research showcase, which allowed attendees the opportunity to learn more about the extensive work in the fields of mental health and neuroscience taking place across the University. Experts from several University research centres were present, including the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute, the Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health, the National Centre for Mental Health, the Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, DECIPHer, the School Health Research Network, and the School of Healthcare Sciences, as well as representatives from the University’s Community Fundraising and Residence Life teams.

Alex has become a well-known and respected figure amongst healthcare professionals in the UK, from his years as an A&E doctor, to bringing the nation accessible and reassuring advice directly from the frontline throughout the pandemic. He has published three Sunday Times bestsellers and published his fourth book in January 2024. He is also the co-founder of Mettle, the mental fitness app for men.

The new Cardiff Conversations lecture series pairs guest speakers with researchers to discuss and highlight the important challenges facing society and how they can be solved.

Professor Roger Whitaker, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation, and Enterprise said: "We are thrilled to welcome Dr Alex George to Cardiff University. Alex’s dedication and expertise in this field promises to spark thought-provoking conversations and inspire innovative approaches towards supporting the well-being of our future generations."

The event was hosted by the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute. The institute brings together world-leading researchers and medical professionals to make new discoveries for mental health and neurological disorders.

Professor Lawrence Wilkinson, Co-Director of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute, said: "On behalf of the Institute and the wider research community here in Cardiff we are delighted to host the inaugural Cardiff Conversations lecture with our guest speaker Dr Alex George."

Broadcaster, comedian and writer, Stephen Fry, in his role as patron of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute, welcomed Alex via video saying: "The issues that this event will be exploring are of a deep importance to me. I was delighted to be made official patron of the Institute over 10 years ago. The mission of this Institute is to harness Cardiff University’s unique world-leading research to enhance the lives of patients and their families. I’m sure every single one of us probably knows a young person who is suffering in some way...so it’s an important mission we’re all’on."

Professor Frances Rice said: "So many people have a family member or someone close to them who’s been affected by common mental health problems like anxiety and depression. My research focuses on understanding the risk and protective factors for depression and developing preventive interventions for depression in young people. I’m pleased to welcome Dr Alex George to the University to open up the discussion of mental health of young people."

Professor Anita Thapar said: "Youth mental health problems, such as youth depression, and neurodivergence, such as ADHD, are incredibly important issues, as we can help set up young people for a bright future with better understanding, support and interventions. This is an excellent opportunity to work with Dr George to highlight research surrounding this."

Dr Olakunle Oginni, a child and adolescent psychiatry trainee and Early Career Researcher in the Welsh Clinical Academic Fellowship scheme, said: "In this event we are recognising the critical importance of addressing the unique challenges faced by young people today. By fostering conversations like this, we can work together to promote positive mental well-being among young people."

You can catch up on all the event’s action on X/Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamcardiff­uni/status­/178847792­3281785291

About Cardiff University’s Innovation and Research Institutes