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It's a royal knockout as William, Kate and Harry launch mental health campaign

Published 16/05/2016

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are launching the Heads Together mental health campaign (The Royal Foundation/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are launching the Heads Together mental health campaign (The Royal Foundation/PA)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have punched home their message of support for the nation's mental health sufferers as they launched an initiative to tackle the issue.

William, Kate and Harry have pledged to find "practical ways of providing everyone who needs help with the right support and care" under their new Heads Together campaign.

Speaking at the launch event, they stressed the first thing to do was to change the national conversation around psychological problems "from one of silence and shame to one of optimism and support".

The royal brothers spoke freely about their own issues, with Harry admitting to getting stressed, while William said he had been affected by his work as a helicopter pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

The new campaign will see the royal trio working with a number of leading mental health organisations and charities to address the issues faced by various members of society from children and young people to pregnant mothers and young men.

To illustrate the role physical exercise can play in helping to reduce problems like stress, the royal trio each took it in turns to put on boxing gloves and be put through their paces by three-weight former world champion Duke McKenzie during a reception at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.

The ex-professional said Harry was the more confident of the three and had punched the hardest, while saying he uses boxing to de-stress. McKenzie added that William had held his power in reserve, while Kate was described as "absolutely lovely".

McKenzie went on to say that Harry, a former Army officer who may have been taught to box in the forces, challenged him to step back into the ring for a bout with him.

He said: "Harry wanted to know if I could make a return and come out of retirement and if me and him could do ten rounds, but I said 'no, your highness, I can't do that because you might knock me out and embarrass me'."

The Cambridges and Harry each took it in turn to speak to the audience, made up of senior staff and supporters of the charities, who are part of the campaign, and those they have helped.

Kate, who wore a skirt by Banana Republic and a blouse by Goat, told them: "Heads Together wants to help everyone feel much more confident with their everyday mental health, and to have the practical tools to support their friends and family."

The leading charities and organisations involved in the project are the Anna Freud Centre, Best Beginnings, CALM - The Campaign Against Living Miserably, Contact (a military mental health coalition), Mind, Place2Be, The Mix, and YoungMinds.

Harry added: "As the year progresses, the three of us - working with all of you in this room and others who will join us along the way - want to come up with practical ways of providing everyone who needs help with the right support and care."

William went on to say: "So let's all get our heads together and let's change the conversation, from one of silence and shame to one of optimism and support."

At the launch event for the new Heads Together project, each of the charities had set up a stall to showcase their work.

McKenzie was part of the Mind stall as he provides boxing training for people referred to his south London gym by the charity.

He wore focus pads on his hands and instructed the royal trio where to punch as they were encouraged to let loose during the boxing demonstration.

Harry looked the sharpest and was left a little tired after his exertions, sticking out his tongue as he panted for air, while William took a few minutes to get into the rhythm of punching and said "I'm relaxed now" as his timing improved.

McKenzie said: "Harry told me he uses boxing to de-stress - and he said he wanted me to be his personal coach."

He added: "Harry's the puncher, he's done it before - he's a bit of a banger. He can punch. He said he wasn't fit but I knew he had a six-pack under his shirt, unlike my one-pack.

"He was more precise with his hitting, while William was a lot more reserved - perhaps he was trying to lull me into a false sense of security. Kate was an absolutely lovely, sincere person, full of charm."

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind - which refers people to McKenzie's gym, said about the new initiative launched by the royals: "I think this is a breakthrough moment for mental health.

"We know there's already growing public interest in mental health and this will really help the way the country thinks about mental health."

Harry spoke with ambassadors from the charity Calm, which is dedicated to preventing male suicide.

Trustee Marcus Chapman, 37, from North Devon, said: "I got involved in Calm when my best friend took his life four years ago.

"He was an Olympic snowboard coach to Jenny Jones the bronze medallist so there was quite a bit of media coverage, so we used it to start a cycle event and we've had about 3,000 cyclists over three years and we've raised about £150,000."

He added: "William says he's been affected by working on Air Ambulance and seeing it first-hand.

"Harry himself (said) he gets stressed and he has to find ways, strategies for him to de-clutter."

The Mix - which offers a helpline, counselling and other forms of support to under 25s - has been encouraging people to upload their motivational songs to its website.

The royal trio had each been asked for a track that got them motivated and DJ AJ King, from the dance music station Kiss FM, played the tunes along with a selection of others.

When William stopped at their stand and asked for his tune to be played, he laughed as it started up - Andy C's Heartbeat Loud.

Mr King said afterwards: "I said to him 'drum and base is your thing, when you're working out' and he said it was his running tune."

Kate's motivational song was Emeli Sande's Heaven, while Harry picked the aptly named British producer Naughty Boy and his track Runnin' (Lose It All) featuring Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin.

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