The Duke of Cambridge will encourage Liverpool and Manchester City football fans to sing their hearts out at the Football Association (FA) Community Shield as he kicks off an ambitious mental health campaign.
In a video message which will be played to spectators in the challenge match at Wembley Stadium, William, who is president of the FA, will stress the importance of the new Heads Up initiative.
The campaign aims to raise awareness about mental health, spark conversations between football fans – particularly men – about the issue, and direct those in need towards support, with a 24/7 text support service established.
"We will use our national game to spread the message that mental health isnât a sad, difficult topic. It is just part of everyday life."#HeadsUp, officially launching at the #CommunityShield, aims to spark the biggest-ever conversation around mental health.@FA @Heads_Together pic.twitter.com/Ol2MGEnnxf— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) July 31, 2019
When Heads Up was first announced in May, the duke called the silence around men’s mental health a “crisis” and encouraged football fans to ask after their friends as they would if they had “broke an arm or an ankle”.
William said at the time: “Just like physical health we all have mental health. Every one of us will face setbacks in our lives. And every one of us will face challenges with our mental health as a result.
“The consequences of this silence – confusion, stigma, and even shame – have reached a crisis point in the UK.
“At its worst, it has led to appalling rates of suicide in this country – the leading cause of death for men under 45.”
He said the campaign, a partnership between the FA and his mental health project Heads Together, would be a season-long initiative that would hopefully see players and fans sharing their solutions to staying mentally fit.
William’s video message will be played during the pre-match ceremony on Sunday when he will introduce the Heads Up campaign and encourage fans to sing their clubs’ iconic anthems.
Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone and Manchester City anthem Blue Moon are songs with themes of isolation and the importance of togetherness.
#HeadsUp will build on our passion for football and use it to kick off a nationwide conversation on mental health.— Heads Together (@heads_together) July 31, 2019
Weâll be partnering with @MindCharity @theCALMzone & Sporting Chance to deliver the campaign. Read more 👉https://t.co/eFCPCD5kKcâ¦@KensingtonRoyal | @FA pic.twitter.com/pC0X4m39Xn
The singing will be led by two community choirs – iChoir from Liverpool and Bee Vocal from Manchester – both created to support mental wellbeing and to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health.
After the Community Shield match, the traditional curtain-raiser to the English football season, the campaign will spread to all levels of the game from the grassroots to the elite, and feature at the biggest moments of the season including men’s and women’s England internationals, concluding at the FA Cup Final on May 23 2020.
The FA, which has chosen Heads Up as its nominated charity, will also work alongside other charity partners Mind, CALM, Sporting Chance and Heads Together to raise vital funds for mental health initiatives and support.
Former England and Arsenal player Tony Adams, who founded Sporting Chance after battling alcoholism, said: “Sporting Chance will be celebrating 20 years of supporting professional sport participants with their mental health in the year ahead.
“I am delighted that we are able to be part of the Heads Up campaign, it is a wonderful initiative. Talking to someone and asking for help was the starting place in my own journey of recovery and today I look after my mental well-being like I look after my physical well-being.
“If we can help encourage people to talk about their mental health, I am ready to start a conversation.”