During an event to mark World Mental Health Day on Saturday, she and husband Prince William praised the courage of young people for talking about mental health, and urged them to keep the conversation going with new ideas for tackling the problem.
Kate, who is mom to Prince George, 2, and Princess Charlotte, 5 months, bonded in particular with 19-year-old Emma Peacock, who was 8 years old when she was misdiagnosed with ADHD – she is, in fact, bipolar.
“I made the mistake of telling my friends first,” Peacock said. “That was not a good idea. Because they didn’t understand, they stigmatized it and I was excluded.”
Kate then asked, “Did you find it hard to tell your mother about it, not wanting to worry your mother? I always find you never want to worry your family about anything.”
Peacock responded, “I was so scared my family would worry, you always want to protect your family, so I found it really hard.”
The royal then turned the conversation to Peacock’s mother, Nadine, who was also at the event at Harrow College, asking, “From a mother’s perspective, how has it affected you?”
Nadine replied, “When your child is going through such difficulties and anxieties, and struggling with mental health, it is heartbreaking. A lot of her friends wouldn’t talk about it because it was taboo.”
Kate, who has worked a lot with charities that support vulnerable kids in schools, then asked the group: “Are schools willing to listen and understand the concept of young people struggling with mental health?”
With the concerned couple listening intently and William shaking his head, Peacock replied, “When I got ill, I had to go into hospital. My school wouldn’t let me back in because they were worried about contagion, and my grades not being good enough. They didn’t want to be the school who had ‘the issues’.”
While William and Kate have been praised for helping to focus attention on the issue, as they try to counter the stigma associated with talking about mental illness, William told the youngsters that “they were the “heroes of this”, not the royal couple.
Chief executive of the charity, Paul Farmer, tells PEOPLE the couple’s visit was certainly helping put the issue on the agenda.
“For a very long time, the cause of mental health hasn’t really been one that anybody has paid much attention to so it’s really important when two of the most famous people in the world are showing their support.
“I think they appreciated the visit very much and particularly the participation of the people sharing their stories,” he says.
Prince William told the group, “I could sit here and talk to you for hours. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. You are being incredibly brave doing this. I know it’s not easy for you re-living your experiences again and again.”
Kate, who has been undertaking a key role in raising the issue through a wide-ranging series of visits and events, added, “I keep thinking about what else we can do and how we can raise awareness. Keep the ideas coming. We think it’s so important. Talking about mental health is so important.”
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