Prince William, who has publicly promoted the importance of mental health, spoke about his campaign, Heads Together, in a conference in Davos, Switzerland. He emphasised the importance of breaking down stigma and talking openly about mental health, whilst also discussing his own experience with emotional issues.
The “Elephant in the Room”
Prince William said he realised there was a common underlying factor hidden in many causes that he worked with, such as homelessness, addiction and veteran care. This ‘elephant in the room’ was mental health. He emphasised that mental health problems are everywhere, with ¼ people experiencing a mental health problem in their life time. He asked the Davos audience to raise their hand if they or someone they knew had experienced mental illness, and almost everyone raised their hand.
“Ten years ago, I knew nothing about mental health. I read about it, and became immersed in it, because it was a key social problem, globally, and someone had to burst the bubble… We’ve got to start tackling it now, because there are still so many people who are suffering in silence.”Prince William, January 2019
Mental Health Stigma
Prince William suggested that mental health stigma may have been inherited from wartime generations. Countless people faced horrific devastation and loss. He said that generation preferred not to discuss and relive what they went through, preferring to keep their trauma bottled up. He added that British people are particularly bad at expressing emotions, with the national attitude of maintaining a ‘stiff upper lip’, especially during war time. This stoic attitude and coping mechanisms were then inavertedly passed down to the next generation.
“You know, we all learn from our parents; we all learn from how they deal with things. A whole generation inherited it. This is the way you deal with your problems: you don’t talk about it.”Prince William, January 2019
The prince spoke about how important it is to remove this stigma from mental health.
“There is still this stigma attached to mental health that we’ve go to completely obliterate before we can move to the next stage.”Prince William, January 2019
Heads Together Stigma
The stigma around mental health became more evident to Prince William when he was setting up his Heads Together campaign. Three years ago, he asked “a lot” of celebrities to support his campaign, and every celebrity refused.
“No one was interested in being part of Heads Together, because it was about mental health, and no one wanted to be associated with mental illness.”Prince William, January 2019
Once Prince William went public with Heads Together, it became easier for people to openly support mental health, which demonstrates the need to reduce stigma. He revealed that people all around regularly thank him for speaking openly about mental health, because either they’ve been affected, or they know someone who has.
Prince William spoke about his own mental health history. He said his issues began when he worked in an air ambulance where he dealt with daily trauma. He added that there was ‘one particular job’ that especially challenged his mental health. His work made him emphasise with the medical profession.
“They say it’s a job, but my goodness they do a very hard job every day.”Prince William, January 2019
We know that a high percentage of Blue Light personnel (ranging between 85-91%) experience mental wellbeing challenges at work but are unlikely to take time off work. As part of Mind’s network of local Minds, our solution is to provide support where and how the services need it most. We are launching Blue Light wellbeing groups, to provide a safe, confidential and impartial space to speak openly to peers without being judged and find new ways of coping, and Blue Light counselling to help process your concerns and find helpful ways of coping.
Hope for the New Generation
Prince William has hope for the next generation as we are getting better with dealing with mental health and talking openly about emotional issues, instead of repressing them.
“A new generation knows that’s not normal.”Prince William, January 2019
To support young people aged 11 to 25 in Dorset with mental health problems, we have developed a young peoples’ mental health programme called Dorset Mind Your Head. This includes school awareness campaigns, school education programmes, drop in sessions, befriending, counselling, signposting, online forums and ambassadors.
We want to support this new generation with their mental health, and ensure they know to speak up about how they feel, and to prevent the mistakes of the past.