Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry marked World Mental Health Day on October 10 with events supporting their Heads Together campaign at London County Hall and the London Eye. The trio gave a speech in support of mental health awareness.
This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day was “Dignity in Mental Health: Psychological and Mental Health First Aid For All”. According to the World Federation for Mental Health’s pdf on 2016’s WMHD:
“Mental health first aid is the help offered to a person developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves… Mental health first aid will typically be offered by someone who is not a mental health professional, but rather by someone in the person’s social network (such as family, friend or work colleague) or someone working in a human service occupation, e.g. teacher, police officer, employment agency worker.”
Keeping with this theme, the Heads Together event featured people who had experienced mental health challenges and the people they turned to when they needed to seek help, as part of the #ThereForMe campaign – which is a joint partnership between Heads Together and The Mix.
The event was also to raise awareness of the fact that Heads Together is a Virgin Money 2017 London Marathon charity partner and to encourage people to sign up for and support the marathon.
While at the Heads Together event, Kate spoke to firefighter Richard McGhee, 33, and his mother Sharon, 64, about mental health in emergency services. Kate told Richard that William comes home from his air ambulance job and talks to her about what he’s seen while on the job.
“‘She was certainly understanding with William’s involvement in the air ambulance and mine in the fire service,’ McGhee, who suffers from depression and anxiety, tells PEOPLE. ‘She was empathetic. She said he comes home and explains what he’s done in the day and tells stories of what he’s seen,’ McGhee continues. ‘It’s very similar to what goes on in my job.’
“‘I felt that she wasn’t there because she was working, but because she wanted to be. She listened and she understood and was asking questions,’ McGhee says. ‘To have someone so high profile be the backbone of this [issue] is raising awareness. It’s going to highlighted it a lot more.'”
Just once I’d love for someone to actually say what the questions are Kate asked instead of just saying she asked questions. I’m really curious about what kinds of questions she asks people.
Kate spoke to Morgan Noquet, 19, about how she was inspired to train to become a midwife after her own midwife Mitch Denny helped her through her mental health problems in pregnancy.
“Morgan said: ‘They wanted to know about our story and we spoke about mental health in general and how they can help break down the stigma and get everyone talking about it and make improvements. With their status and their profile the fact they’ve chosen mental health, especially as it’s got so much stigma, to hear people who everyone know talking about that is so helpful.’
“Mitch added: ‘Kate spoke about being a mum and we talked about how her life is high profile and different from Morgan’s life day to day. But you [Morgan] were saying sometimes it’s difficult with Luna your daughter and she was agreeing with that.’
“Morgan, who is mum to Luna, 20, months added: ‘It’s quite nice knowing that they are also parents and normal in that respect. I was saying when my mental health is good it has an impact on my daughter and she’s calm and collected, but at the same time she is a toddler and she can be a bit wild. They were just agreeing with it.’
“Mitch added: ‘They said ‘I think we’ve got one of those’.’ She added they weren’t sure if William and Kate were referring to George or Charlotte, saying: ‘I didn’t like to ask!'”
William, Kate, and Harry gave speeches while at County Hall.
“Thank you so much for joining the Heads Together campaign on World Mental Health Day. Catherine, Harry and I are incredibly proud to be working with you all to tackle one of the greatest challenges facing our society.
“Mental health is not a dirty word – we all have mental health like we do physical health, good or ill. But not seeking help at those times when it all seems too much, or we are depressed or anxious, can impact the rest of our lives. Put simply, the three of us want to make asking for help no longer a big deal.
“On the Heads Together journey so far we have seen the difference that a listening ear can make to people’s lives – whether a father supporting a child suffering depression, a soldier who has returned from a testing deployment, or a child struggling with the pressures of a new school.
“Personally, in my work at the Air Ambulance, I see how colleagues and families help each other through traumatic moments. The three of us have learnt a lot in the past few months as we have met people. The conclusion we are coming to, is that the more we all talk about this, the more collectively as a society we can do to support one another.
“The theme of World Mental Health Day this year matches this. It is ‘mental health first aid for all’. To us, mental health first aid means getting in there early to support people, before what they’re going through becomes more serious or even clinical. That support can be as little as a conversation and a listening ear – or it can be signposting someone to a professional service. These actions may seem little, but they are vitally important.”
“We are fortunate to be meeting and celebrating today with inspiring people who have been there for friends, colleagues and family at crucial times in their lives. All of us know someone who has been through difficult emotional times, and we know how hard it can be to see a way forward.
“William, Harry and I feel it is our duty to do what we can, with your help, to shine a spotlight on emotional wellbeing and highlight the support that is out there to prevent or manage the pain at difficult times. The three of us are coming to the realisation that more needs to be done to support people who are seeking help. Over the coming months, we hope to explore what else we can do to increase the level of service and support that people can receive.
“But first, as William said, we must tackle the stigma that stops people asking for help in the first place. We want to encourage people to talk to one another. There are many people who are here today in order to share their own, very personal experience of the kind of support that can make the difference between coping and not coping – between good mental health and poor mental health.”
Kate then introduced two men who talked about their experience asking for each other’s help during a difficult emotional time.
Then Harry said:
“William, Catherine and I want everyone to know how to give exactly the vital mental health support that you have talked about. It’s not rocket science, but most of us don’t know what to do if a friend or family member is suffering. Having some basic knowledge, and having the confidence to act on your knowledge, can make a huge difference to those around us – as Rich was for Dan.
“As William said earlier, we all have mental health just as we all have physical health. Too often we think mental health problems are things that happen to other people, not us. But we will all experience pressure on our mental health at some point during our lives. The more we accept that, the better we can help each other. Catching it and recognising it early, saves lives.
“So, it’s time we ended the shame around mental health – the fear of judgment that stops people talking or getting help. One of the upcoming opportunities we have to spread the message about ending the stigma on mental health is the Virgin Money 2017 London Marathon – one of the largest sporting and mass participation events on earth. Heads Together has the privilege of being the 2017 charity partner of the year. We want as many London Marathon runners as possible, spectators around the course and people watching at home to get involved and make it a marathon for mental health.
“All of us have mental health. So the more we all get behind this topic, the more we can help not just the individuals suffering, but also their entire families and work colleagues as well. Together we will break the stigma forever and save lives.
“So, thank you for supporting Heads Together. It is a campaign with huge ambition for 2017 and the years ahead that can only be achieved with the support of all of you. The challenge is great but when we put our Heads Together we can achieve great things.”
The positive: I think this was an adequate speech from Kate in terms of content – it wasn’t as empty as many of her speeches have been – and it’s good to hear that they are finally setting some sort of road map for their work with mental health, even if it is vague: “Over the coming months, we hope to explore what else we can do to increase the level of service and support that people can receive.”
Another positive: I agree with Harry that “most of us don’t know what to do if a friend or family member is suffering”. Even people who have suffered from depression themselves don’t always know how to talk to a friend who is suicidal. So it’s good for everyone to take the time to have compassion for those who come to them for help.
Now to the nitpicking, because OMG it’s been an entire year since Kate and William really got onto their mental health kick, how have they only learned a lot “in the past few months”? They have met and been talking to people seriously about topic for a year! They are just now coming to a conclusion about the topic? And the conclusion that they are just now coming to is that “the more we all talk about this, the more collectively as a society we can do to support one another” and “more needs to be done to support people who are seeking help”? I’ve know this for over a decade. Sure, this issue is a personal one for me so my knowledge of it is from my own personal experience, but they’ve been at this for a year, doing information-gathering events and meeting and talking to people from various mental health-related charities, how have they just now put this together? I thought them forming Heads Together was because they already put this conclusion together after months of coming to this conclusion (they had been on their mental health kick for over six months by the time Heads Together was announced). They seriously haven’t come to this conclusion until well after forming Heads Together? What??
You can watch Kate speak at 0:32-0:55 in the YouTube video below, and 0:19-0:41 & 1:56-2:12 in the Heads Together Twitter video below. Just from the few seconds I’ve seen of Kate giving her speech, she looked down most of the time but did quick, successive eye-flicks up to the audience.
— Heads Together (@heads_together) October 10, 2016
After the event at County Hall, the royal trio took a 30 minutes ride on the London Eye. The London Eye visit was to highlight the “Light Up Purple” campaign which saw several landmarks lit in purple to mark WMHD. The Light Up Purple campaign was founded in memory of Amanda Todd, who committed suicide at the age of 15 on October 10, 2012 after suffering bullying, blackmail, and assault.
Supposedly it’s to highlight the fact that the London Eye was lit up purple that night, but I really don’t see a reason why they did the London Eye ride and couldn’t have talked to the people they talked to at the County Hall event instead, but whatevs.
While riding the London Eye, Harry spoke to Theresa Cox, 48, who is a carer for her husband, Andy, 52, who has a rare neurological condition, and tried to spot Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen was home. Theresa told the Express: “He told us to look out for his grandmother’s building and wave. He couldn’t remember if she was home or not so we were looking to see if we could spot her royal standard.”
The royal trio also met people from Best Beginnings and the Baby Buddy App.
Before leaving for the day, the royals met with a group of children from Abacus Nursery in Streatham Hill, south London, who had been walking by after a visit to the nearby London Aquarium. The children told Harry about how they had seen crocodiles at the aquarium, and when asked if they had met a Princess, one boy replied: “I met the Kate one.”
Kate wore a new dress by a new-to-her designer: the Kate Spade “Encore Rose Chiffon Dress” ($498). The dress features “a dramatic floral design that’s inspired by the roses tossed on stage at the end of a show” and is made of 100% silk with a 100% polyester lining.
I think the print is really pretty. I’m not the type of person who dresses based on season (other than weather) so I have no problem with this print and this fabric in October. My problems with this dress are that the neckline is so high and because Kate wore the dress buttoned all the way up and her hair down it seemed very constricting on her. Also, the waist seem is wonky and doesn’t sit correctly on Kate. If Kate had worn her hair up and worn a belt to cover the wonky waist seem, I think the dress would have worked better.
When it comes to the accessories, Kate went with her boring standards: LK Bennett Nina clutch in Trench, Gianvito Rossi suede pumps in Praline, and Kiki McDonough Morganite and Diamond Cushion Drop Earrings.
The boys in their outfits:
Here are a few more photos from the event, and two more quotes from the WFMH’s pdf. These quotes are the kind of thing I wish William, Kate, and Harry included in their speeches on mental health.
From the WFMH’s pdf about lack of information about people with mental health issues:
“Many people are not well informed about how to recognise mental health problems, how to respond to the person, and what effective treatments are available. There are many myths and misunderstandings about mental health problems. Common myths include the idea that people with mental illnesses are dangerous, that it is better to avoid psychiatric treatment, that people can pull themselves out of mental health problems through will-power, and that only people who are weak get mental health problems.”
The WFMH’s pdf on the stigma surrounding mental health issues:
“There is stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems. Stigma involves negative attitudes (prejudice) and discrimination refers to negative behaviour. Stigma may have a number of negative effects. It may lead people to hide their problems from others. People are often ashamed to discuss mental health problems with family, friends, teachers and/or work colleagues. It may also hinder people from seeking help.10 They may be reluctant to seek treatment and support for mental health problems because of their concerns about what others will think of them. Stigma can lead to the exclusion of people with mental health problems from employment, housing, social activities and having relationships. People with mental health problems can internalise the stigma so that they begin to believe the negative things that others say about them. Better understanding of the experiences of people with mental health problems can reduce prejudice and discrimination.”
[WFMH pdf, pg. 11-12]
I want to say something about the idea that the only people who suffer from mental health problems are people who are weak, because that idea was touted last week by a powerful, influential person in the United States who could potentially be a very powerful, influential world leader. Anyone who spreads that kind of false, outdated information about any group of people who suffer from mental health problems is doing untold damage to everyone who suffers from mental health problems.
If people think that their mental health problems make them weak or make it so that people (and very powerful, influential people at that) will insult them, they will not seek help. Trust me, I know that first hand. Comments that people who suffer from mental health problems are weak or can’t handle it only increase the stigma surrounding mental health. The stigma is real, and it hurts people, the last thing we need to do is increase it.
That’s why I am so hard on William, Kate, and Harry about this subject. They do have a platform to help create change and they need to do more to achieve it. They need to be specific in their wording, speak about the stigma and how harmful it is to people, not just say that the stigma exists. And they need to have an actual plan of action on this. It’s been a year and they’re still learning and just now coming to conclusions. If this is the cause they want to focus on, then they need to step it up.