Alex George, the doctor who rose to fame as a contestant on Love Island, has been appointed by Boris Johnson as a youth mental health ambassador to advise the government.

The A&E doctor, whose younger teenage brother took his own life last year just weeks before he was due to start medical school, has been campaigning for better mental health provision.

No 10 said George would use both his clinical and personal experience to help shape policy on improving support for young people in schools, colleges and universities.

The doctor, who appeared in the 2018 series of the ITV2 dating show, will also raise the profile of mental health education and wellbeing in schools, Downing Street added.

His appointment follows a warning last week from Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, that mental health services do not have the capacity to cope with the impact of the Covid pandemic on children.

George posted on Instagram – where he has 1.6 million followers – on New Year’s Day that his “number one goal is to help bring meaningful change to mental health education at schools across the UK”.

The doctor’s 19-year-old brother, Llŷr, killed himself in July. “I miss being brothers with Llŷr and while I’ve always been a mental health advocate, losing him galvanised the passion I have for it,” George wrote in a piece for the Sun last month. “Getting that phone call from my dad to tell me [that his brother was dead] was the most indescribable physical pain I’ve ever felt. There’s nothing like it, so any way I can stop other families going through what we did is worth it.”

Welcoming George’s appointment, the prime minister said: “Children and young people have heroically adapted to save lives and protect our NHS. This has understandably had a huge impact on their mental health, so I want to shine a spotlight on this vital issue ahead of their return to school.

“I’m delighted that Dr Alex George will be working with us as we do everything in our power to improve people’s mental wellbeing.”

George added: “The last year has been unimaginably difficult for all of us, but particularly for young people who have sacrificed so much. I am honoured to be appointed for this role where I’ll be working closely with government to make mental health an absolute priority and hope to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and their education for good.

“Right now young people need a voice in government, and I hope that through this role I can advocate for meaningful change in this area.”

George will take up the unpaid post immediately, working within the Department for Education although Downing Street said he will remain independent of government. In addition, he will sit on the new Mental Health in Education Action Group – chaired by the children’s minister Vicky Ford and universities minister Michelle Donelan – which No 10 said will look at how the government provides wellbeing support for young people as they return to school and university.