Harry underwent two days of training in how to help sufferers when he volunteered at the British Army’s Personal Recovery Unit last year. “It ran through the range of options that veterans face,” says a royal source.
Along with Harry, William and Kate have also been increasing their expertise in the area. Through his employment as a pilot with East Anglian Air Ambulance, William has seen first-hand the importance of professional mental health support, while Kate has made the wellbeing of families and children a central pillar of her public work.
On Wednesday, the royal trio released a series of searingly honest films featuring both well-known names and ordinary people talking about personal mental health crises.
Among the films, comedian Ruby Wax is shown talking about her mental illness with her husband, while model Adwoa Aboah and her mother speak about the depression that led to the model’s suicide attempt.
Musician Professor Green chats with cricketer Freddie Flintoff, a pair of young moms discuss their difficulties and a high-profile British broadcaster Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy share the anorexia battle she faced.
In her film, comedian and writer Ruby Wax talks to her husband Ed Bye about when she first told him of her mental illness. Wax, whose has become an expert in psychotherapy and neuroscience and is a best-selling writer on mindfulness, says, “Do you ever think about when we got married and what I told you? I said to you a) how old I really was; b) that I had been married twice before; and c) that I was mentally ill. You only had a few feet to go before we hit the registry office.”
TV director Bye says, “Well, my belief is that if you are close to someone with depression, you need to help them make the first move to understand that they are sick.”
Aboah is seen talking with her mom Camilla Lowther about how “dark and horrible” her depression was. Her mom thought she had a problem with drugs “until you tried to kill yourself.” Aboah has since found great relief in talking with her loved ones: “I couldn’t believe that it was simple to talk.”
As they launched the mini films, William, Kate and Harry said in a joint statement, “We have seen time and time again that shattering stigma on mental health starts with simple conversations. When you realize that mental health problems affect your friends, neighbors, children and spouses, the walls of judgment and prejudice around these issues begin to fall. And we all know that you cannot resolve a mental health issue by staying silent.”
They add, “Attitudes to mental health are at a tipping point. We hope these films show people how simple conversations can change the direction of an entire life.”
The princes and Kate commissioned the films, some made by top directors like John Madden and Stephen Frears, and signed off on the finished results, in the latest stage of their Heads Together campaign that will peak at the London Marathon next month.
Around 700 people are running the marathon on behalf of the Heads Together charities. On April 23, the trio will be at the course to cheer on participants. It was “actively explored” for them to take part but it was deemed too difficult for security reasons, says the royal source: “All three of them talked about it.”
Last week, Harry took part in a public discussion of the issues. William, meanwhile, has spoken of what he has seen as an air ambulance pilot and praised his employers for how they support the mental health of their workers.
They are urging people to share the films and continue the conversation on mental health, which they started when they brought eight charities from those who help children, to young men and veterans — under their Heads Together umbrella last April.
Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, one of the charity partners of Heads Together, adds, “These films have the power to spark life-changing and, in some cases, life-saving conversations. We hope that there will be a snowball effect with more and more people seeing the benefits of speaking out and supporting each other.”