Inside Princess Kate's Passion for Tackling Mental Health Issues: 'She Is Totally Engaged'

The royal mom has impressed kids and schoolteachers alike with her efforts to end the stigma around mental health

Photo: Danny Martindale/WireImage

Over the past few years, Princess Kate has turned her focus on children’s mental health awareness into a passion.

She’s graduated from listening and absorbing information and talking with young people, to taking a part in round-table discussions about mental health challenges.

The latest came during her visit to Scotland last week. After being given a raucous welcome from the children at St. Catherine’s Primary School in Edinburgh, she smiled and joyfully told them, “Everyone should start the day like that! Hope you all have a great day and I look forward to meeting some of you later.”

She then sat down with head teachers from some of the 28 schools that have facilities for kids run by one of her charities – Place2Be – in Scotland.

Based in more than 250 schools around the U.K., the charity focuses on early intervention and supporting children as they face mental health difficulties and other challenges.

“The fact that she was able to sit and listen and contribute to the discussions shows that this is not just a badge,” the school’s head teacher Paul Hunter tells PEOPLE. “This is something she is genuinely passionate about and heads that were in the meeting there were extremely grateful to see that knowledge and enthusiasm and warmth come over around the table and made everyone feel so at ease.”

It is useful for Kate, 34, to come and see schools in action, president of the charity, Benita Refson tells PEOPLE. “As a patron, she is really engaged in all her charities. And her enthusiasm for the work for the organizations where she is a patron comes out in these visits and really having a knowledge base about what she’s supporting.”

“The Duchess is totally engaged and really informed and the head teachers were absolutely impressed by the level of engagement and the questioning and the level of interest in the whole topic and the work of Place2Be. That knowledge is growing but is also based on a genuine, genuine interest.”

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Kate also visited Wester Hailes Education Centre last week to support another cause she backs, The Art Room, which uses art therapy to increase children’s self-esteem, self-confidence and independence.

“It was such a positive thing for the area, and for the Duchess, to see the work of the project she has put her name to, and we decided we are going to meet to talk further about the stigma and how we can offer further intervention,” Juli Beattie, Founder Director of The Art Room, said of Kate’s visit. “The children have gone away thinking, ‘We’re worth it’, and they are worth it.”

And later this month, Kate and husband Prince William will continue their focus on vulnerable kids as they visit the mentoring program of the XLP project at London Wall, which supports young people who are facing emotional, behavioral and relational challenges.

The couple last visited with the charity about a year ago before Kate started her maternity leave.

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