I’m disappointed in myself. When I read KP’s tweets that Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry would “outline their ambitions” for Heads Together at an event today, January 17, I assumed they would set actual goals for the campaign that they would then work to achieve. My mistake. I fully blame myself for my disappointment right now. I should have known better than to get my hopes up.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Harry were at The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London today for a Heads Together event which brought out various people from the HT partner charities as well as people who will be running for HT at the London Marathon in April.
The three royals gave a speech in which they “outlined their ambitions” for the campaign, but the “next phase” of Heads Together consists of next to nothing new.
“Thank you to everyone here today for being enthusiastic about Heads Together. We launched the campaign last year and are extremely proud to support the life-changing work of our eight Charity Partners. We are also very grateful for the support of our Founding Partners.
“Mental health matters to each and every one of us. It matters just as much as our physical health. The crews I have worked with, whether RAF Search and Rescue or Air Ambulance, must take their mental health as seriously as they do their physical health or else they would not cope – and, actually, that is true for everybody at some time or another in their life. There are times when, whoever we are, it is hard to cope with challenges – and when that happens being open and honest and asking for help is life-changing.
“Talking to someone else is a positive and confident step to take – but for too long it has been a case of ‘Keep Quiet and Carry On’. As a result, too many people have suffered in silence for too long, and the effects of this can be devastating. The three of us are really optimistic that things are changing. We believe that 2017 can mark a tipping point for mental health – a moment when more and more people no longer feel they have to bear the weight alone for fear of judgment.
“It is no exaggeration to say that conversations – simple conversations – can be life-changing: in a workplace, in your kitchen at home, with a friend, family member or colleague. And that’s what Catherine, Harry and I want to do – we want more people to be having those conversations. It is our ambition to make this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon the Mental Health Marathon – a major opportunity to help change the conversation on mental health, and to get people talking. And for that, we really need your help.”
“As William has said we have heard time and time again in the course of our work how talking can help heal the hidden challenges we can’t deal with alone. We have seen that two heads are better than one when dealing with a mental health problem. Yet, the challenge that so many people have is not knowing how to take that first step of reaching out to another person for help. Admitting that they are not coping. Fear, or reticence, or a sense of not wanting to burden another, means that people suffer in silence – allowing the problem to grow larger and larger unchecked.
“William, Harry and I have been very privileged to witness in the course of our work countless examples of simple conversations that have changed lives, which were the first step on a path to recovery. Just last week at the Anna Freud Centre, I heard from one mother how talking to a support worker was – in her words – like medicine. Simply by having someone there to have a conversation with helped her immensely.
“So the question that William, Harry and I have asked ourselves is how we can get more people to start talking. How do we encourage people to take the first step. What Heads Together is proposing is that in the weeks leading up to the Marathon, our campaign will showcase people from all walks of life, talking about the life-changing conversations that have helped them with their mental health challenges. We hope that these real-life examples will serve as encouragement to others to do the same. If we succeed with this, we will have taken a powerful step in normalizing mental health as an issue in our society, thinking about it as we do our own physical health.
“Harry will explain more in a moment about what you can do to help us with this challenge. But first I would like to introduce Jon, who is running for Heads Together in the Marathon; and Steve, who will tell you the story of how a conversation made such a big difference to their mental health. Jon and Steve… thank you.”
“Thank you, Jon and Steve, for sharing your conversation and the impact that it’s had on your lives; and thank you Jon for running for Heads Together. I’m reliably informed that you’ll run it in under four hours! Good luck with your training! Over 500 people will be running for Heads Together, leading from the front (well perhaps not right at the front!), raising funds for the vital services provided by our Charity Partners. These runners will also be leading by example by starting conversations on mental health with their families, friends and colleagues.
“It has been unbelievably encouraging to see that attitudes towards mental health across the country are beginning to change. In the past, the phrase ‘mental health’ would be translated to mental illness. But thankfully that is changing! As a result of family, school or work pressures, everyone’s lives are lived at a frightening pace and these stresses can often seem overwhelming. Some will ignore the signs of stress, others will insist they’re ok after losing a loved one. Some will be afraid to ask for help, others won’t have anyone to turn to.
“One thing is certain, we are all wired differently. We all have mental health; and we’ll say it again and again and again, if you want to be fit, healthy and set yourself up for success then your mental fitness is absolutely as important as your physical fitness. Everyone would get help for a broken leg, so why not seek help for an issue that could hamper you and others around you.
“The truth is we can all help each other. You don’t need any qualifications to help your mate out, simply to listen to what they have to say. At the heart of this campaign is our hope that no-one should be afraid to ask for help, and no-one should worry about knowing how to help. That initial conversation could be the cure, before it has a chance to manifest itself.
“The BBC have announced today that they are running a season on mental health to coincide with the Marathon, which is fantastic news. But every single one of you in this room can help too. You are all role models and highly respected people in your industries – the way you talk about mental health will have a profound effect on millions of people, whether you’re speaking from personal experience or encouraging those around you to do the same. So please could I encourage you all to have a conversation with the Heads Together team, who are here today, and share your ideas. We need as many people as possible – famous or not – who can help showcase what it’s like to have a conversation with a friend, family or stranger. All your ideas are welcome.
“I would now like to introduce Rio Ferdinand – a sporting legend but perhaps, just as importantly, someone who is leading the way in talking openly about mental health. I first met Rio last summer when he joined our Heads Together BBQ and I talked with him, his dad and friend Ben about how the support we give each other can help us through the darkest of times and come out a stronger person.”
They said many words – and I appreciate that Kate gave a rather long speech, because that’s an improvement for her – but what ambitions did they actually state?
They “want more people to be having those [life-changing] conversations” because they want to “make this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon the Mental Health Marathon” and their hope is “that no-one should be afraid to ask for help, and no-one should worry about knowing how to help.” But the only thing they are actually going to do is that “in the weeks leading up to the Marathon, our campaign will showcase people from all walks of life, talking about the life-changing conversations that have helped them with their mental health challenges.” Because they hope that “these real-life examples will serve as encouragement to others to do the same.”
That’s it? Those aren’t actual, tangible goals for the campaign. How do they measure success with this?
I have a very personal connection to the topic of mental health issues and depression, and I don’t want to let my emotions on this subject overwhelm my comments on this event and speech. There are many people who will benefit from Heads Together, and from their campaign to get people talking and the showcasing of people discussing their life-changing conversations. I get that. I get that there are people who will benefit from this, and that’s great for those people. And while I am sure that Heads Together’s charity partners do great work, I have heard nothing from Heads Together or William, Kate, and Harry to show that they actually understand the various thought processes that people who suffer from depression go through (and let’s be honest here, that’s the only mental health issue they are focused on). They discuss the issues with broad brushstrokes but don’t seem to understand the nuances associated with it. Yes, fear and not wanting to burden others are big reasons why people don’t reach out for help, but HT and the royals don’t seem to understand how a campaign focused solely on the idea of “start a conversation, it’ll be life-changing” won’t necessarily solve the problem. For some people it will, but for others it won’t. Not everyone suffers in the same way.
One of my main issues with this campaign is that there is seemingly no focus on reaching people who don’t already pay attention to the Heads Together campaign. How is the showcasing of everyday people’s conversations going to help the people who don’t already follow HT on Twitter or YouTube? How is HT going to reach the people who are not already looking for help? How are they going to reach the people who are crying in their bed thinking they have no one to talk to, no where to turn? “Start a conversation, it’ll be life-changing” doesn’t address the issue of “I have no one in my life to talk to, and even if I did I wouldn’t trust them enough to tell them my problems”. It’s like telling a person with a broken leg, “Go to the hospital, they’ll fix it”, while the person is going, “I know I’m supposed to go to the hospital, but how do I get there when I can’t even walk?” Heads Together is telling people to go to the hospital, but they’re not helping people get there.
Another issue that Heads Together fails to address is the issue of challenging the stigma associated with depression in those who don’t suffer from it. HT and the royals are telling people who suffer from depression to start a conversation because it will be a positive experience and life-changing – William literally said “Talking to someone else is a positive and confident step to take.” But what happens when someone suffering from depression talks to someone who thinks negatively of them for suffering from depression? That would result in a negative experience for the person suffering from depression – it is one of the fears stopping people from seeking help. So starting a conversation with just anyone isn’t the answer, you have to start a conversation with the right person, because there is still such a stigma attached to depression. But HT and the royals haven’t said much on that. They’re very focused on reaching people who suffer, and I fully understand why, but they’re not reaching out to challenge the views and opinions of other people, which I think is a mistake. In order to tackle this issues, they will need to tackle it from all sides.
I’ve been critical of the Heads Together campaign and with Kate’s involvement with the issue of mental health in the past, and one of the biggest criticisms I get from it is that what they do does help some people and I don’t acknowledge that. So I’m acknowledging that. I know that what (little) Heads Together and the royals do for the issue of mental health does help some people – and that’s great. But it’s doesn’t help everyone. And if Heads Together and the royals want to “create millions of conversations” to “get the country talking about mental health” and “change the conversation”, then they need to do more than they are doing now, because their current way of doing things will only help a fraction of the people they claim to want to help.
Switching gears entirely… I still dislike Erdem as a whole, but Kate still loves Erdem, so she chose a new Erdem dress for the occasion, opting for the “Evita” dress ($813/£664 at Net-a-Porter, and $713 – discounted from $1,876 – at Forward). The “Evita” dress is crafted from navy matelassé and features long sleeves and a slim skirt.
I think it’s better than some of Kate’s Erdem dresses, but I just dislike Erdem as a whole so this isn’t my cup of tea.
Kate repeated accessories with the new dress: her Oscar De La Renta “Pearl Gold Disc Button Earrings”, her Tod’s burgundy Leather Fringe Buckle Detail Pumps, and her Mulberry Bayswater Clutch in red suede.
When I first saw photos of this dress I didn’t see any red in it so I wondered why Kate chose a red bag and shoes to go with it, but looking at the product details the dress does have the tiniest bit of red in it.
From Twitter calculations based on Rebecca English’s arrival and departure tweets (at 7:01 AM and 8:20 AM, my time), the royal trio stayed at the event for about an hour and twenty minutes.
Richard Palmer on Twitter made several remarks about how the royals didn’t bother to acknowledge the press who were standing only a few feet away from them when they arrived and left. This isn’t exactly a classic “Richard Palmer Twitter Rant”, but I think it’s worth noting how rude the royals are to the press.
On arrival, Palmer tweeted: “My phone died just as William, Kate and Harry arrived at the ICA. William noticeably blanked us all from two feet away. Charming.” And when the royals left, Palmer tweeted: “The three royal leave and one cheeky photographer shouts: ‘Bye!’ No reply.” and “The royal press pack has decided that part of having a national conversation about mental health should involve saying hello to people.”
I’ve been trying to be more positive over the last month, and I went into this event thinking and hoping I would be able to be positive about it. I genuinely wanted to be; I want them to outline actual goals and ambitions and work to achieve them. But after this event I am left so disappointed with the Heads Together campaign.