Prince William and the World’s Leading Football Stars Are Taking Stigma Out of Men's Mental Health
Football is “one of the most powerful, unifying forces in our society.”
Prince William is leading a campaign for men’s mental health supported by football stars like Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry, Pep Guardiola, and Gareth Southgate.
As the football season kicked off this weekend, the Duke of Cambridge launched the #HeadsUp campaign — a collaboration between mental health charity Heads Together and the Football Association (FA) — to destigmatise male depression, and get football fans talking about their mental health.
Football, according to the campaign, is “one of the most powerful, unifying forces in our society,” and it wants to use that passion to “drive the biggest ever conversation on mental health.”
“We wouldn’t think twice to ask a mate how he was doing after he broke an arm or an ankle,” said Prince William, when launching the Heads Up campaign in May.
“We wouldn’t hesitate to talk about our routine at the gym, or even our need to make it a bit more regular,” he continued. “But when it comes to our mental health, we — and by we I mean men in particular — often have nothing to say at all.”
He added: “The consequences of this silence — confusion, stigma, and even shame — have reached a crisis point in the UK.”
📹 The Duke of Cambridge launches #HeadsUp at The @FA#CommunityShield— Heads Together (@heads_together) August 4, 2019
"We all need to take care of our everyday mental fitness, and provide support to one another when we face setbacks so we can be match fit for whatever lies ahead." - @KensingtonRoyalpic.twitter.com/Zxcdj9lIhM
Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 20 to 34 in the UK, and is considerably higher in men, according to the Mental Health Foundation website — with around three times as many men dying from suicide compared to women.
It’s the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK — and those at highest risk are men aged between 40 and 44.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, one reason that men are more likely to die by suicide may be because they are less likely than women to ask for help or talk about depressive or suicidal feelings.
According to recent stats, just 27% of people who died by suicide between 2005 and 2015 had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died.
Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the FA — of which Prince William is also president — described the statistics on male mental health as “shocking.”
“We will work with Heads Up to use the power of football to. tackle the stigma around mental health and raise awareness of the importance of mental fitness,” he added.
The Duke of Cambridge featured in a video message played for fans at the FA Community Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester City on Sunday.
“As we talk about the physical fitness of the players involved, it’s important we take a moment to think about their mental fitness too,” says Prince William, in a video shared on Twitter by Heads Together.
“But we shouldn’t confine it to just the teams on the pitch,” he continues. “Because we all have mental health. It is just as important for those lining up for Manchester City and Liverpool today, as it is for those watching in the stands and at home.”
The video was followed by the team anthems You’ll Never Walk Alone and Blue Moon sung by community choirs — highlighting, according to the campaign, the “themes of isolation and the importance of togetherness, pertinent to the core message behind the campaign.”
The campaign has launched a 24-hour crisis support line, where if a fan wants immediate support they can text "HeadsUp" to 85258 to connect with a trained crisis volunteer, who will chat to them by text message to help them through the moment and work together on a plan for longer-term support.
Meanwhile, football clubs will reportedly get guides for coaches and managers to spot signs of mental ill-health in players — and advice on supporting them in getting help.
The FA said the campaign “will be activated across all levels of the game from the elite to grassroots and at the biggest moments of the season, including men’s and women’s England internationals and FA competitions.”