I get that we are in the last week ahead of the London Marathon, of which Heads Together is the charity of the year, but the royals really should have spaced out their mental health stuff better. Because two interviews, a video, a documentary interview, and four engagements all in one week was just poor planning. They did a flurry of mental health engagements in February after announcing they’d be doing lots of mental health engagements leading up to the Marathon, but then didn’t do any mental health engagements for a month and a half, and then drop all of these things in one week. Poor planning. Anyway, after Prince Harry‘s interview in which he discussed his own mental health issues following his mother’s death, Prince William also has a new interview about mental health (which is a joint one with Harry), a new video about mental health (with Lady Gaga), and he attended an engagement yesterday for the BBC documentary ‘Mind Over Marathon’ which has an interview with him about mental health.
Let’s start with the joint interview with Harry, since that dropped first yesterday morning. William and Harry did an interview with CALM for their magazine in which they spoke about Heads Together and mental health.
What do they hope to achieve with Heads Together?
William: “Catherine, Harry and I have all been working through our charitable work with organisations dealing with the military, young people, addiction and homelessness. One thing that was clear to us was how many of these issues have a mental health concern at their root, but people can’t and won’t get help because they are ashamed of what people might think. For me, the tipping point came when I saw the impact of suicide through my work as a helicopter pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance. My first call out was to a male suicide and I was told there were five suicides or attempted suicides every day in East Anglia alone. When I looked into it I was shocked by how bad this situation is – suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – which is absolutely appalling. I hope that through Heads Together and with CALM we can show how to tackle this – by helping men feel they can open up about pressures they are going through and get the help they need.”
Harry: “We will all go through tough times in our lives, but men especially feel the need to pretend that everything is OK, and that admitting this to their friends will make them appear weak. I can assure you this is actually a sign of strength. Since working with the rehabilitation unit in the Army, and my work with injured servicemen and women in the Invictus Games, I’ve realised just how important mental fitness is for men and women in the armed forces too. Some people experience issues connected to their military service but often it is related to things they were dealing with before they signed up. I think it reflects the increase in mental health problems across society. The support we can provide servicemen and women is getting better – as is our understanding of the issue. Since we launched Heads Together I’ve met inspirational people who’ve given me confidence that we can all crack this together and make talking about getting help for our mental health as normal as talking about our physical health. Let’s remove the stigma to give people from all walks of life the confidence to be able to seek help and direct them towards the right support for them.”
The British and the “stiff upper lip”:
William: “For too long there has been a taboo about talking about some important issues. If you were anxious; it’s because you were weak. 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. Attitudes are changing and this is being helped by high-profile people talking about their experience. Men like Professor Green, Freddie Flintoff and Rio Ferdinand have led the way and made films for Heads Together showing the conversations they have had about pressures on their mental health. The recent interview with Stormzy about his depression was incredibly powerful and will help young men feel that it’s a sign of strength to talk about and look after your mind as well as your body. There may be a time and a place for the ‘Stiff upper lip’, but not at the expense of your health.”
What insight have their jobs in the military given them about masculinity and mental health?
Harry: “The military is a complex picture as on the one hand there is an incredible sense of brotherhood and belonging between you and your mates. You’ll do anything for each other, scrub each other’s boots, drag each other through the mud, anything. Yet, on the other hand, this support for each other hasn’t, up to now, included looking after how your buddy is feeling and thinking about things. When you’re serving you look after your physical health, your training and your equipment, but not your head. There’s definitely been a misplaced sense of pride that has got in the way of people in the military community talking about their mental health and getting help. It’s changing now and i’m proud that this is part of the Heads Together campaign. Hopefully if men see soldiers talking about mental health, it will give them the confidence to do the same. At the end of the day we all want to be as physically fit and robust as possible; keeping on top of our mental fitness will not only prepare us better for the days ahead, it will make us better people too.”
Wiliam: “Sometimes, emotions have to be put to one side to get the job done, but if you have been through an especially traumatic or stressful situation it is essential to talk it through after the event. If you don’t acknowledge how you feel it will only bottle up, and could reassert itself later as illness.”
What do they do if you get stressed?
William: “In my work with the East Anglia Air Ambulance you never know what you will be called out to and we see things each day that can really take their toll. If I’ve had a tough day at work I talk to my friends and colleagues about it. We’re encouraged to talk it through with each other and to let someone know if we are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. It really is as simple as that – if you are feeling overwhelmed, having a conversation with someone can really help.”
On gender taking hold in early life and what values and ideas of masculinity would William like to instill in George:
William: “Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings. Over the past year we have visited a number of schools together where we have been amazed listening to children talk about some quite difficult subjects in a really clear and emotionally articulate way – something most adults would struggle with. Seeing this has really given me hope that things are changing and that there is a generation coming up who find it normal to talk openly about their emotions. Emotional intelligence is key for us all to deal with the complexities of life and relationships.”
While the biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide, the group with the highest suicide rate is men over 45, in both the UK and US.
I wish William had elaborated on the gender thing when it comes to George and Charlotte. Like, allowing and supporting them discussing their emotions is great, but a dude who can talk about his emotions but still treats women as second class citizens is still toxic.
Next let’s talk about William’s video with Lady Gaga. In the video, William, in his home in KP, and Gaga, in her home in LA, video chat about mental health and Heads Together and Gaga’s open letter about PTSD.
Did anyone else cringe while watching it, or was that just me? I think the whole thing came off really contrived, and didn’t add much in terms of what they said – it was just a rehash of things, especially from William. I would have rather they been in the same room to just chat (although I understand that may not have been feasible), because I was really distracted by the production of the video – like, don’t pretend the cameras just caught you chatting, we know this is heavily produced, so cut the coffee stuff and stop shaking the camera.
As with any and all videos the royals make that have photos in them, let’s chat about the photos. The four photos on William’s desk are L-R: a black and white photo of Harry and William wearing glasses (which appears to be a previously unseen image from this official photo set); one of the first photos of George taken by Mike Middleon (this one); a previously unseen black and white photo of William and Kate from their wedding; and a black and white photo of a lab (did William have a lab growing up or do they have another dog other than Lupo? Or did William just keep a stock photo because he liked it? Because that’s not Lupo).
Yesterday, April 18, William attended a screening of Mind Over Marathon, the BBC doc about the London Marathon. In an interview for the doc, which airs on Thursday in the UK, William spoke about his shock at losing him mom.
On still feeling shock over Diana’s death after 20 years: “The shock is the biggest thing. I still feel, 20 years later about my mother, I still have shock within me… People say shock can’t last that long, but it does. You never get over it. It’s such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you, you just learn to deal with it.”
Accepting that it’s okay to have emotional pain helped him process it: “You try and understand your emotions a lot more than probably someone who’s just lived life without issues, and that’s quite critical. It’s explaining to them what those emotions mean, why they feel like they do. Once you start rationalizing a little bit and you understand, Okay, so I’m a little angry or a little down or a little upset about something, then you can kind of relativize it and sort of deal with it.”
His reasons for being involved with mental health: “I have my own reasons for being involved in mental health: What happened to me and my mother when I was younger. It all comes back down to mental health.”
Kate Middleton also says words in the doc, but so far it’s only talking to marathon runners about their battles. Kate told a mother who has been training for the marathon while raising two kids: “I don’t know how you find the time!” And commended her and the other runners for being open about their battles, saying: “You’re the heroes really, because you’re standing up there very bravely telling your stories. We hope to shine a light on people like you, because I think that’s what the public need to hear.”