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The Duke and Duchess met with young people who have personal experience of mental health problems and now volunteer with Mind in Harrow or the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change. They discussed the challenges that the young people have faced and learnt how they are now channelling their experiences to inform and inspire other young people at schools, colleges and youth groups.
The Duke and Duchess also joined students from Harrow College to take part in a Mindkit workshop which educates young people about emotional health and resilience. The interactive session focused on the five ways to wellbeing and how it can be applied to help young people manage difficult times.
Work to build awareness and understanding of mental health problems is a major priority for both The Duke and Duchess. The Duke recently took part in an anti-bullying workshop run by the Diana Awards charity, and The Duchess visited the Anna Freud Centre in London to continue her work on the mental health of children.
Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:
“By putting a spotlight on mental health, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are helping us to send an important and urgent message to the world that it is time to change our attitudes about mental health problems.
“Today’s event marks a coming of age for mental health - it is coming out of the shadows and now beginning to receive the attention it truly deserves. For too long mental health has been something that families did not speak about, that schools did not know how to address and workplaces would ignore. This silence or ignorance leaves people living with mental health problems alone, afraid and without the help and support that they need. We cannot let this continue.
“Our young Mindkit volunteers are doing a sterling job, both here in Harrow and right across London. We know that if young people feel they can reach out for help, and receive that support, their longer term outcomes are significantly improved. Mindkit is helping ensure that the next generation will have a much more positive attitude to mental health.”
Time to Change’s Director Sue Baker said:
“Mental health is an issue across the globe and sadly, so is the stigma attached to it, but we are starting to see progress and this is the generation for change. Having the support of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on World Mental Health Day will help to bring mental health out from the shadows to a global audience. “Three children in every classroom will experience a mental health problem and stigma and discrimination can have a big impact on their lives, preventing them from going to school or college or simply socialising with friends. By meeting young Time to Change campaign champions to hear about their experiences and how they’ve tackled stigma, it sends out a powerful message that it's okay to talk about mental health.
“Our latest campaign aims to show that you don’t have to be an expert to have these important conversations and there are small things that anyone can do that can make a big difference.
Time to Change Young champion Vithuja Balasingam, who met the Duke and Duchess at the event today and delivered a speech about her experiences said:
“I was first diagnosed with depression aged 12 since then I’ve been sectioned, hospitalized. I’ve hit the worst of the worst, where life no longer felt a viable option. At home, my family couldn’t understand, I had a perfect life, so why was I so miserable, initially it was put down to teenage hormones. I’ve been laughed at, shouted at, mocked. I’ve had peers calling me attention seeker, messages telling me to kill myself, psychiatrists telling me I am too clever, police telling me I’m wasting their time, nurses referring to me as the sectioned girl, the list goes on.
“I’m a now young involvement worker, youth panellist and a champion for Time to change. The staff and volunteers always make me feel included, welcomed and supported, I feel like I am part of a family, and it’s helped me so much.
“For a long time, depression was the only thing I knew, talking about it has helped me separate myself from the illness. I had always conformed to the idea that having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of and hide, but actually being open, saying ‘yes, I have depression but so what?’ has really helped me in my recovery and that's why I'm here today. To celebrate how far we’ve come and to remind everyone that it’s okay to talk without being afraid or ashamed.”
Mindkit volunteer Nosa Iyobhebhe said:
“It has been amazing to meet and come together with other Mindkit and Time to Change volunteers and speak openly about our experiences of mental health problems. It’s even more incredible that we were able to share that moment with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They were really interested to hear about our experiences and seem to have a real passion for mental health. It’s been a very exciting and emotional day!
“I joined Mindkit because I experienced self-esteem and confidence problems when I was younger. I hope that by being involved with the project I can help other young people to understand that it’s ok to be you and you don’t have to keep up appearances if you are struggling.”
Find out more about Mindkit and the Time to Change #smallthings campaign.