Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry reveal £2m funding to heal nation's mental health

Hannah Furness

When Prince Harry gave an extraordinarily frank interview about coping with his mother’s death earlier this year, he hoped to help “smash the stigma” and start a national conversation about mental health.

According to a national study published on Sunday, he did: and in some style.

Research into Heads Together’s campaign has showed an estimated 1.2million men spoke about their own mental health in May this year compared with three months earlier, all-but closing the gap with women who have traditionally spoken more freely.

The findings, likened by the Duke of Cambridge to “exam results day”, showed the significant impact of the charities campaign, which included a series of videos showing celebrities speaking about their mental health, and the London Marathon.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry announce the next phase of their mission: a £2 million investment fund to help improve the nation’s mental health through technology.  Credit: AFP

Today, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry announce the next phase of their mission: a £2 million investment fund to help improve the nation’s mental health through technology.

Their Royal Foundation has confirmed its largest single grant yet, intended to develop a digital tool to help people find trusted information about their mental health and get help in times of need.

The Duke said he hoped it would help create a “metaphorical barrier” to catch people who have otherwise missed sufficient mental health treatment, “to bring them into the fold and give them the help they need”.

Speaking at the Data Observatory at Imperial College London, the Duke praised a research project to measure the success of the royals’ Heads Together campaign, which culminated in the London Marathon earlier this year.

Hailing the results “fantastic”, he discussed how the information could now be used to help more people with mental health issues, moving beyond encouraging them to talk into practical solutions.

Duke of Cambridge speaks at a briefing on the progress of the 'Heads Together' campaign. Credit: AFP

The study, of 14,000 people by YouGov, noted a significant change in the public’s approach to mental health between February and May this year, when the Royals’ Heads Together campaign was in full swing.

In particular, experts noted, the publicity arising from initiatives including the OK To Say videos and Prince Harry’s interview about his own mental health had almost closed the gap between men and women, with men catching up with the conversation.

In February, 45 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women said they talked about their own mental health.

By May, 60 per cent of men and 61 per cent of women had such discussions. At the peak of this change, Heads Together found, 1.2 m more men talked about their own mental health.

The study noted a “slow and steady increase” in people talking about mental health in general, with a three per cent rise, or 1.5 million people, discussing it in May compared with February.

Each of the Heads Together charity partners reported a significant rise in people contacting them following the launch of the Heads Together marathon , the Prince Harry interview, and the actual marathon.

Mind experienced 58 per cent more calls than normal, with Best Beginnings seeing 105 per cent increase in app downloads and Place2Be noting a 148 per cent boost in downloads of their school resources.

Of those surveyed, 68 per cent of people would now speak to a family member, 64 per cent to a friend and 25 per cent to a doctor.

Just two per cent would choose to speak to their HR department, seven per cent to a work supervisor and 24 per cent to a colleague.

Heads Together have now singled out several areas for particular attention in the coming months: men; the workplace; and the military.

Proclaiming the depth of the figures “amazing”, the Duke said there was a “lot to process”.

Reading findings that three quarters of suicides in the UK are men, he added: “That’s still a worrying statistic though, it really is.”

Pointing out the 68 per cent of people who said they can now talk to family about mental health, he said: “This also shows that support at home is quite key, isn’t it?

“At the beginning, we were trying to understand why at home people weren’t sharing some of their problems. If we’ve at least made a big impression there we can work on the wider societal aspects.

“But I think it all has to start at home. If you can’t even have a conversation with your loved ones,there’s no way you’re going to go to HR at work.”

He added: “The only thing, trying to extrapolate the data from this, is that these individuals who have spoken have probably got reasonably good support network around them.

“Are we missing a whole set of people who have either been in case or who have had very bad experiences at young ages, who have bad mental health already? How do we affect that demographic?”

Speaking of the future work of the Royal Foundation, which will include the £2m investment, the Duke said: “I suppose it’s finding a metaphorical barrier to get people towards.

“I can imagine if you’re not in some of these categories you can spend your life missing opportunities to be helped. “We’ve got to somehow catch people in their daily life to bring them into the fold and give them the help they need.” After viewing a presentation, which included video footage of the Duke, Duchess and Prince Harry racing one another as they launched the Heads Together marathon, he asked experts whether they felt they had yet been enough impact in schools.

“You’d struggle to find a parent out there who wouldn’t want the well-being of their child to be taken care of at school,” he said.

Lorraine Heggessey, CEO of The Royal Foundation, said: “We wanted to change the conversation on mental health and to push further with an optimistic and inclusive campaign.

“We’re so proud of what’s been achieved through the work of charities, Heads Together supporters and runners, and those who felt able to open up and tell their stories.

“People have told us that this was so important to them and we believe the national conversation is changing. This positive response to the campaign has inspired us to take it to the next stage.

“So far, we’ve been showing people why they should have a conversation. This funding will enable us to invest in practical tools to help people actually have those conversations.”

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