Article from The Express of London highlighting the passion of the Royal Family in ‘smashing the stigma of mental illness”
William: ‘Let’s smash mental health stigma’: Prince William tells DANNY BUCKLAND of his mission to break down the barriers on mental health and help those suffering from its effects through the Heads Together campaign he launched with the Duchess of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry
The Express on Sunday; London (UK) [London (UK)]12 Feb 2017: 18.
Creating that climate will take time and, as the Sunday Express has long advocated, intelligently targeted resources need to be provided so that people who experience mental health issues can be helped way before things reach crisis point. The Duke said he hoped that ensuring mental health was a public talking point would construct the “stepping stones” to more funding and a more solid support structure. The royal trio formed Heads Together, a coalition of eight charities covering mental health from children to adulthood. Chris Martin, chief executive of The Mix, which offers a range of support for under-25s, said that William, Kate and Harrywere deeply committed to creating improvement across mental health. Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, praised and thanked the Sunday Express for its enduring work in the field, saying: “What you write has impact and people do take notice.”
THE DUKE and Duchess of Cambridge breezed into the reception room with the practised fluidity of a thousand public engagements. Smiles, handshakes, a supportive retinue and a disciplined timetable; all the features of royal duty.
But this time protocol was eased aside as the couple, who front the Heads Together campaign with Prince Harry, insisted on discussing mental health in the raw. This was no token gesture, no convenient cause to fill the appointments diary. They are both committed to using their energy and status to fight an inequality disfiguring British society.
Their aims accord with the Sunday Express Crusade for Better Mental Health, which has challenged the Government and authorities over the past four years to find ways of supporting the one in four of us who will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime.
I was introduced to the Duke, who had requested to meet members of the Guild of Health Writers to urge them to keep mental healthissues in the public spotlight. He said our work was vital to “breaking down the barriers” surrounding mental health.
I asked him how important it was to encourage families and friends to speak about mental health and not to shy away from people who may be having difficulties.
“It’s absolutely vital,” he said. “We need to get people talking to generate those conversations that make the subject easier to deal with. Families talking to each other is a great way of normalising the conversation.
“We need to smash the stigma around mental health and this is one way to do that.”
It was a powerful, engaged response – far from the diplomatic side-step that many politicians and public figures employ when faced with tough topics. His choice of language was revealing – the phrase “smash the stigma” – peppered our conversation as he clearly sees this as a battle needing an abrasive approach.
“I and Kate believe early intervention is key,” he continued. “We need to offer a way of facing up to issues early on.”
He added that it was also important to have a light touch around bringing mental health into mainstream family life so conversations are natural rather than forced. His aim is for parity of esteem between physical and mental health in both society and the health service.
Creating that climate will take time and, as the Sunday Express has long advocated, intelligently targeted resources need to be provided so that people who experience mental health issues can be helped way before things reach crisis point.
The Duke said he hoped that ensuring mental health was a public talking point would construct the “stepping stones” to more funding and a more solid support structure.
“The work you guys do is important,” he added. “Health journalists have a major role to play.”
William urged more public figures to become involved, praising ITN newsreader Mark Austin for revealing his heartbreak over his 22-year-old daughter Maddy’s struggle with anorexia. She is on the road to recovery but Austin’s moving piece called for greater funding to ward off a mental health “epidemic” in the UK.
“That was very courageous of him and we need more people like Mark to speak up,” the Duke added. He said his passion to make a difference in mental health came from meeting vulnerable young people: “It was their openness about their mental health, their anxiety issues, their honesty about not coping, that made me realise that poor mental health was a major issue in our society.”
The Prince was also profoundly affected by dealing with suicides while working as an air ambulance pilot. The Duchess saw the heartache from her work with children and young families, while Harry was energised by his work with Forces’ veterans. William added that “their conclusions were the same – that mental health needed to be brought out of the dark and de-stigmatised”.
The royal trio formed Heads Together, a coalition of eight charities covering mental health from children to adulthood. Chris Martin, chief executive of The Mix, which offers a range of support for under-25s, said that William, Kate and Harry were deeply committed to creating improvement across mental health.
“They have come to it via different routes but, because of their unique experiences in public life and meeting so many different people, they are in a very good position to do something.
“They are engaged and eager to work with people to make a difference. They recognise the importance of journalism and campaigns such as the Sunday Express Crusade for Better Mental Health have had a huge impact in tackling stigma.
“When the Sunday Express writes that it is OK to be not-OK, it gives people the courage to take the next step. Often young people feel isolated and are not aware that they can speak to someone who can help so it is really important to keep this work going.”
The royal couple stayed for almost two hours at the event, organised by the Guild of Health Writers, where Heads Together partner charities also talked about their work.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, praised and thanked the Sunday Express for its enduring work in the field, saying: “What you write has impact and people do take notice.”
Sarah Stacey, co-chairwoman of the Guild of Health Writers, added: “The Duke and Duchess were keen to meet key health journalists and hear their views. They are passionate about reducing the stigma of mental health and getting people talking. The Guild fully supports the aims of Heads Together and we will promote the campaign in every way we can.”
The pathway to better mental health is strewn with barriers, not least chronic under-funding in a turbulent NHS, but the Sunday Express’s crusade will continue. Its first four years have helped change the landscape at work and at home but it will take the combined forces of all charities, organisations and grassroots supporters to end stigma and build a fairer society.
The heartfelt calls from William, Catherine and Harry are now part of the
millions of voices for change.
OPINION: Page 26
‘I and Kate believe we need to offer a way of facing up to issues early on’ PRINCE WILLIAM
Credit: DANNY BUCKLAND
Caption: PASSIONATE: When the Duke and Duchess Prince Harry they called for a conversation around the issue to normalise it – as Prince William explained to Danny Buckland, above of Cambridge launched their campaign with; Pictures: ALASTAIR GRANT/PA; ANDREW YOUNGSON