In an impassioned speech Monday night, Prince William said “we all” face struggles with mental health.
Addressing key health journalists in London, the prince outlined what he called the “journey” that he and Princess Kate and his brother Prince Harry have made to put mental health at the forefront of their public work.
“Mental health was the great taboo. If you were anxious, it’s because you were weak,” the royal dad of two said at the Guild of Health Writers event. “If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing. Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course – we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.”
Kate, who wore a magenta peplum jacket and skirt by Oscar de la Renta, and William were out for their second public duty of the day to highlight their Heads Together campaign, which unites several charities under one umbrella. They kicked off Children’s Mental Health week with a visit to the charity, Place2Be.
During his speech at the conference, William also revealed how he “got interested in mental health,” citing his work as an air ambulance pilot and the serious issues he witnessed on the job.
“It was suicide, a subject that is so often hidden,” he said. “The suicide rate among young men in this country is an appalling stain on our society. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in this country. Not cancer, not knife crime, not road deaths — suicide. If one of these other issues took so many young lives, there would be a national outcry. This silence is killing good people.”
William added, “For Catherine and Harry, their journeys to Heads Together were different: Harry predominately through his work with veterans, and Catherine through her work with children and young families. But their conclusions were the same — that mental health needed to be brought out of the dark and de-stigmatized.”
Their hope is to create an atmosphere where the issue can be discussed openly.
“On average it takes a sufferer 10 years to admit to a problem,” William added. “This means that what often starts as a fairly minor issue becomes something serious and medical after time. Silence can kill; but talking can lead to help and support.”
The theme of the writers’ conference was ‘The Anxiety Epidemic” and featured a number of guest speakers, including Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, which is part of the Heads Together coalition. The royal trio’s initiative is also the official charity of the London marathon, and a marathon runner spoke at the event to highlight his personal experience of anxiety.
For her part, Kate outlined why she is so passionate about fighting for kids’ mental health.
“The answer is quite simple: it is because I think that every child should have the best possible start in life,” she told children at Mitchell Brook primary school in north west London on Monday.
And she praised her parents, who “provided me with somewhere safe to grow and learn, and I know I was fortunate not to have been confronted by serious adversity at a young age,” she told the children.
“For some children, maybe there are some here today; I know that life can sometimes feel difficult and full of challenges. I think that every child should have people around them to show them love, and to show them kindness, and nurture them as they grow,” she continued.