Princess Kate's open attitude about mental health issues is changing the way people discuss the topic

By Diana Pearl and Simon Perry
February 24, 2017 02:51 PM
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Princess Kate is a crusader for mental health awareness.

This week, the royal stepped out for her first official engagement with Action for Children, meeting with children and families who work with the organization (and even attempting a “dreadful” shot at pool!). She recently took over as patron for the organization from Queen Elizabeth, who stepped down late last year.

The event was a success, chief executive of Action for Children Sir Tony Hawkhead told PEOPLE, adding that Kate’s past support of issues concerning mental health make her a seamless fit in the organization.

“We’re delighted that she’s become our patron,” he said. “[She understands] our values are around doing what we know works and what’s needed and doing what’s right.”

“The Duchess of Cambridge has been a very committed supporter of improving the mental health of children, of supporting families and taking action early, which is a big focus for Action for Children and what this project here is all about.”

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Kate, along with husband Prince William and brother-in-law Prince Harry, has become a vocal supporter of the importance of mental health. The royal trio has partnered with the organization Heads Together to support the cause. He said that the impact of Kate’s support of the mental health of young people has been tangible in the U.K.

“Since she has been working in this area with the Princes William and Harry there has been a really transformative impact on the way that we see mental health issues in the U.K., particularly around young people,” he said. “It was quite a stigma as mental health was seen as very different way to physical health.

“She has been part of a real change in both political — when you see the way politicians talk — it is also in the way everyday people see it. We are talking about and see it as okay to talk about. She has been a huge spearhead of that.”

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Kate told families at the event of her passion for bettering the lives of children, especially in regards to mental health.

“It’s an area I am so passionate about — in particular the development of, and early intervention with, young children and support for family structures,” she told one of the parents at the event. “In these early fundamental years, it’s traumatic for the child or if the parent or primary career is not around, so for me to get in as early as possible is important. Particularly if you come from challenging situations, for parents to be given support as early as possible is important.”

Action for Children helps children in need, as well as their families or guardians, throughout the U.K. Hawkhead said that the organization focuses not only on improving the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, but their families, too.

“All the children in this project are in care when they come to us but the focus is on taking action at a level where you can prevent things from getting worse,” he said. “We have extraordinary stories of children returning to their birth parents where nobody thought that would be possible.”