"She gets it," youth mental health advocate Amy Mary Rose Herring says of the royal mom
Kate Middleton‘s mission to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in youth is already making a difference.
Visiting the Kantor Centre of Excellence at the Anna Freud National Centre for Families and Children on Wednesday, the royal mom was excited to see the new faciilities.
“[Kate] was very pleased with the building,” Peter Fonagy, chief executive of Anna Freud Center, tells PEOPLE. “She had been with us along the journey, and she was both pleased for us and relieved that it has worked and that the building is nice. It is a friendly building that you feel comfortable in and not an institution. Somewhere people can come and feel at home.”
The new center brings together leading practitioners in neuroscience, mental health, social care, child development, research and education, alongside young people and their families. By hosting everything in one space, it is better placed to transform mental health provision for children and their families across the U.K., the charity believes.
It is a fruition of a lot of work and support from Kate — including a fundraising gala that “materially helped” bring the project to a conclusion.
“She clearly speaks for the children and families who face mental health challenges. She gives them a voice and they feel empowered,” Fonagy says.
“Having a mental health problem disempowers you tremendously. You feel no one cares about you and [that] makes you stay there,” he adds. “But when you have someone — in effect a leader of the country speaking about you and for you, you feel at least two inches taller. That makes a tremendous difference. That is the button I’m most concerned that she presses.”
Kate, 37, held a reception on Wednesday night for those on her steering group — of which Anna Freud is a key link between various agencies and how they can band together to help kids and families in the early years.
“She is personally committed. This is her career, and she wants to achieve and support it in all its different forms,” he says. “The priorities will change over time. But to have someone in her position of leadership and convening power to lead that process — to myself and my successors — is a gift. It will make everyone’s job easier, as it has mine.”
One of those inspired by Kate is Amy Mary Rose Herring, 22, who has been working with the Anna Freud Centre to help them tailor their services for children, young people and parents.
“I’m passionate about improving children and young people’s mental health,” she says. “It is important for adults to hear what young people have to say — they’re the experts. I wanted to raise the youth voice.”
Herring, who has suffered from depression and anxiety, says the center “really does champion young peoples’ involvement.”
Herring spoke at the meeting with Kate, explaining that she felt misunderstood.
“I really love the fact that she got it, she understood. She understands how much it means not just focusing on young people but having the families,” Herring says. “It’s really important having the families involved as they sometimes feel they aren’t doing a good job — but they are. Everyone needs supporting so it does take in the whole unit. She gets it.”