Heads Together: Britain’s Royal Family Works to End Mental Health Stigma

At the Davos World Economic Forum, Prince William advocated for greater mental health awareness, noting that “there are still so many people suffering in silence.” Prince William says his own mental health had suffered while he was serving as an Air Ambulance pilot because of the trauma-related nature of the job, especially in cases involving children. Watch below as he discusses why mental health education and treatment is vital:

Prince William’s passion led to the founding of Heads Together, created in 2016 by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. This organization aims to “ensure that people feel comfortable with their everyday mental well being, feel able to support their friends and families through difficult times, and that stigma no longer prevents people getting the help they need.”

Prince William acknowledged that the foundation had initial difficulty garnering celebrity support because people were reluctant to do so for a mental health charity, especially before the foundation had gone public and garnered positive press. His words come on the heels of an editorial from James Middleton, brother of Kate Middleton and Prince William’s brother-in-law. Writing about the depression that he first experienced in 2016, Middleton recalls that:

“I couldn’t communicate, even with those I loved best: my family and close friends. Their anxious texts
grew more insistent by the day, yet they went unanswered as I sank progressively deeper into a morass
of despair. All colour and emotion had leached out of my world and everything was grey and monotone.
I know I’m richly blessed and live a privileged life. But it did not make me immune to depression. It is
tricky to describe the condition. It is not merely sadness. It is an illness, a cancer of the mind.”

Middleton writes of his sinking deeper into his depression as he isolated himself from family and friends. After struggling for a year, he reached a breaking point and sought out treatment. Now he feels that he’s able to manage through coping strategies and medication.

The Royal Family has been vocal in the past about their struggles with mental illness. In a 2017 interview with the Daily Telegraph, Prince Harry (Prince William's brother), spoke candidly about how his mother’s death—and his reluctance to talk about it—affected him: “I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well.” Once he began seeking professional help at the urging of Prince William and others close to him, he says that his feelings of anxiety and anger started to dissipate. Prince Harry spoke of the power of sharing his experiences, saying that “once you start talking about it, you realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club.”

The mental health advocacy from the Royal Family is critical in changing and shaping the global conversation on mental wellness, and we applaud their role in helping to end the stigma.