Princess of Wales: ‘People who had unhappy childhoods can still become happy adults’

Roman Kemp Princess of Wales early years campaign children childhood mental health - Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Roman Kemp Princess of Wales early years campaign children childhood mental health - Kensington Palace/PA Wire

The Princess of Wales has said that people who had unhappy childhoods can still go on to be happy adults in a new video for her early years campaign.

In the latest release for Shaping Up, her long-term project to raise awareness about the importance of a child’s first five years of life, Catherine spoke with Roman Kemp about mental health.

She told the Capital FM presenter: “It’s really important to stress we can’t take a fatalistic outlook on this, either.

“For those who haven’t had happy childhoods, they can still go on to happy, healthy lives with the right support and the right interventions as well.”

In a video filmed last month at the Hertfordshire home of Kemp’s parents, the pair talked about the issues that her new campaign, which launched on Tuesday, aims to highlight while taking a frosty walk:

Kemp is taking part as one of the campaign’s “champions”, the celebrity supporters helping to spread the message to their respective audiences and generate awareness, particularly among the younger generation.

He has been a vocal mental health campaigner since the suicide of Joe Lyons, his best friend, in Aug 2020, and has since released a BBC Three documentary about the mental health and suicide crisis affecting young men.

He told the Princess: “I’ve gotten into this world in a way that no one really should do and I wish I wasn’t associated with the word ‘suicide’, and unfortunately that word will follow me around for a long time.

“The thing that happened to me in losing my best mate to suicide… I felt like what someone had told me a suicidal person looked like. It was as if someone handed me a piece of paper and said ‘By the way, everything you thought is a lie and you need to go and tell people that’.”

The Princess told him that she loved his documentary, Our Silent Emergency, and agreed that boys care about their physical health but “find it much harder” to talk about their mental health.

Asking whether his views on the subject had changed after filming, he said: “It’s made me realise that if we really want to make a difference here, we have to go younger.

“That’s why I think that the work you’re doing is fantastic because, really, that’s who we need to be targeting.”

The Princess, wearing a sheepskin coat, roll-neck jumper and gloves, told the radio host that her Shaping Us campaign “isn’t just about raising kids”.

Roman Kemp Princess of Wales early years campaign children childhood mental health - Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Roman Kemp Princess of Wales early years campaign children childhood mental health - Kensington Palace/PA Wire

It’s about shaping our futures and shaping not only the adults we become, but shaping our society, creating a happier, healthier, more nurturing world for us all to live in as well,” she said.

As they walked in the open air, the Princess agreed with Kemp’s suggestion that as a mother, the issue of early years was “something that you wanted to learn for you, as well as putting it out there”.

She described her belief in the importance of the cause by using an analogy: “It’s a bit like building a house. Without strong foundations, without this solid start in life, then those building blocks are much harder to build later on in life.”

When Kemp commented on families “struggling” with raising kids and the cost of living crisis, she replied: “The pressures that we all face are different. Whilst raising the importance of early childhood, this isn’t about putting extra pressure on families.

“It’s actually saying they need the support and help reprioritising family life, home life, and all that it takes really in raising children today because it is tough.”

The Princess also stressed the “critical” importance of having “healthy and strong relationships” in the first five years of a child’s life.

The film followed a series of announcements that form part of her long-term public awareness campaign, thought to be the first of its kind to be launched by a member of the Royal family.

It marked the first major project from The Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood, which the Princess launched in 2021, when she signalled her intention to elevate the status of early years campaigning to be on a par with other global issues such as climate change.

Shaping Us is designed to start conversations about the importance of early childhood which, in turn, will start to slowly build awareness and change the fortunes of generations to come.