Prince William: no celebrities backed mental health campaign till launch

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Prince William at Davos. Photo: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Prince William has revealed not a single celebrity would join his new mental health campaign until shortly before it launched.

The Duke of Cambridge made the surprising comments in a panel event on mental health at the Davos summit of world leaders in Switzerland.

He said it was “very interesting” that nobody had shown interest just three years ago when he, his wife Kate and Prince Harry began preparing the Heads Together campaign to tackle stigma.

He has campaigned for greater action to tackle mental illness for several years, and used the Davos appearance partly to highlight his new website with resources for employers.

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He told business and political figures at the summit: “What was very interesting was that not one celebrity wanted to join us. We went out to a lot of people but before we started nobody was interested.

“That was three years ago. That was a big deal.”

But he said once he and others began “putting our necks on the line” by getting the ball rolling, people began to openly pledge their support.

“Some very brave people came forward, from celebrities to normal people, and bravely took on the task.”

Asked if any celebrities who initially declined had later signed up, he laughed and replied simply: “It’s now become a lot easier to talk about.”

He said he felt huge solidarity with frontline staff in Britain’s hard-pressed health services from his time working in the air ambulance service.

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He also revealed one incident from his time in the service had been so traumatic he still found it hard to talk about.

“I get very emotional talking about it because it relates very closely to my children. The whole team was very affected by this one particular job. As a team you draw it out and debrief.

“I know if I hadn’t taken the action I did, I would have definitely gone down a slippery slope and been dealing with mental illness on a different level.

“Lots of people in the medical community have particular cases where you don’t ever get over it. You go through someone else’s pain, and you live with it.”

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He said a younger generation had finally realised mental health should be spoken about, and praised fellow panelist Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, for making it a priority in office.

“We’ve got to tackle this now so our children and grandchildren don’t have to go through this process, and they can be a lot more open about it,” he said.

The Mental Health at Work website set up by Prince William, the Mind charity and others offer training and resources to organisations to support staff mental health.