GEORGE Hodgson didn't leave his bedroom for a whole year, other than to see his psychiatrist.

Even then, his anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks didn't go away.

But today, just a few years later, he's happy to talk to an audience of more than 200 school children about his own mental health issues and recovery and runs his own successful fashion brand.

George, 22, who lives near Winchester, says the early signs of his anxiety were present when he was still at primary school.

As a youngster he was given support to help him calm down and his symptoms faded during secondary school, only to return with a vengeance when he was 16.

"A friend and I went to a festival to celebrate the end of our GCSEs and foolishly, I took MDMA," he says.

"I didn't enjoy it – it wasn't for me.

"Then, about three weeks later, I suddenly started feeling hot and sweaty and had tunnel vision and thought I was back on the ecstasy. It turned out that I was experiencing a panic attack and I began experiencing them on a daily basis.

"It wasn't caused by the MDMA but that was a trigger.

"Anxiety needs something to home in on, and in me, it was the drugs.

"Everytime I felt happy, I became convinced that I had accidentally taken drugs. That developed into OCD, with me washing my hands 50 to 100 times a day as I was convinced that I must have traces of drugs on my hands, which were causing my feelings."

George confided in his parents after his first panic attack, who took him to see his GP.

He was referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

By this time, as well as experiencing panic attacks, anxiety and obsessive compulsive symptoms, George was also having suicidal thoughts, so he and his family were horrified to be told that although the service could help him, it would be around a 40 week wait for an appointment.

"I was very scared and so were my parents," he says.

"We went back to my GP who suggested that if my parents could afford it, they sent me to see someone privately. Luckily, they could afford it and I saw a psychiatrist who did hypnotherapy with me and also prescribed some medication, and after seeing him for around a year and a half, I then had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for around a year and a half more.

"I do feel let down by the system," he adds.

"There isn't enough funding, especially for mental health. I feel let down by the government and sorry for the NHS.

"It's not the people in CAMHS fault, it's that they don't have the funding, and I feel really sorry for the young people who need help, but can't get it."

George had to drop out of college as he couldn't cope, and spent a year largely confined to his room due to his severe anxiety, reading, watching TV box sets and recording his feelings through words and images, in notebooks.

He didn't realise it at the time, but this was the foundation for his new career as a fashion designer and businessman.

"As I started to get better, I saved some of the images from my notebooks into Photoshop, and had the idea of putting one of them on a t-shirt, so that I could share it with friends and family," he explains.

"I started by buying a screen-printing kit but I was no good at that, but then I had the idea of having a few printed and getting others to wear them, to help spread awareness of mental health issues.

"That was a lightbulb moment for me, and it's become my project and an important part of my recovery."

The idea led to George setting up his own fashion brand, Maison de Choup, named after his nickname for his sister, Charlotte, who helped him through some of his darkest days.

George creates and sells clothing featuring designs which have a connection to mental health issues, with 25 percent of the profit from some items, including that first t-shirt, which features the message 'words fail me', going to child and adolescent mental health charity Young Minds.

"During my illness, I Googled my symptoms and found the Young Minds website," he says.

"It really resonated with me, and helped to know that I wasn't the only one suffering in this way.

"Once I had decided to sell the t-shirts, I approached them and asked if I could partner with them and donate a share of the profits."

George now sells internationally, particularly to America and Denmark, via his online store, and is also a regular at Winchester market.

He says he was always interested in fashion but had never considered it as a career; he had planned on studying photography at university before he became ill.

Now, as well a helping to raise awareness of mental health issues through his clothes, he goes into schools, colleges and workplaces to talk about mental health and is also a youth and digital and social media advisor for Young Minds.

He has received a huge amount of positive feedback from those who have experienced mental health issues about his talks and designs.

"When I do talks, people always come up to me afterwards and say that I've described what they are going through," he says.

"It's humbling that by telling my story, I can help someone else to speak up.

"The same happens on the stall. I have a big board that says 'mental health matters', and strangers come up to me and start talking about their mental health issues because of that and the clothing.

"All of the designs have a mental health story behind them, such as the one which has a smiling face for what you show the world and a sad face for how you can feel inside. I like to tell stories about mental health in a subtle way, and if someone asks about them, that can start a conversation."

George says that he is often asked if he wished he hadn't had a mental health crisis and, perhaps surprisingly, the answer is 'no'.

"I learnt the hard way, but it's shaped my future. I've been through it early, and I can use my experience to help others, which is the most important thing for me.

"Unfortunately, mental health issues are still a taboo subject, especially for young men," he adds.

"Men are under pressure to be seen as strong and as leaders and they often don't open up and share how they are feeling as much as girls. They need to be able to open up and talk about their feelings. We've got a long way to go in that respect."

George hopes that through his company and volunteering, he is helping to change things for the better.

"I hope that by raising awareness I can help to change the mental health system. I'd like to see shorter waiting times and more help available – not everyone can afford private help.

"I also hope that the work I do will help to encourage people to open up earlier about any issues they are having, rather than waiting until they are in a dire position, going to CAMHS, then being told they have to wait.

"I feel incredibly positive now. I do have my down days, when I need to take time out for myself.

"I don't think you're ever 'cured' from mental health problems but we learn to cope in our own way, and in doing that, I hope I can make a difference."


We have two 'Words Fail Me' t-shirts, to give away, rrp £35 each. The t-shirts come in a choice of white or navy blue, and come in extra small/small/medium/large.

For a chance of winning, answer the following question: what is the name of George's fashion brand? Send your answer, along with size and colour of t-shirt you would like to win and your contact details to:, with Words Fail Me competition in the subject line, by midnight on June 14. Usual Daily Echo competition terms and conditions apply.