Prince William Says ‘Not One’ Celebrity Wanted To Be Involved In His Mental Health Charity At First

Of course, someone very close to Prince William and Prince Harry was talking candidly about mental health over 20 years ago...

Prince William

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Updated on

Prince William has said that when he and Prince Harry became ambassadors for a mental health campaign in 2016, they were taking a risk that many celebrities wouldn’t.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual rich-guys' jolly in Davos, primarily about climate change, the Duke of Cambridge said that he and Harry ‘put our necks on the line’ when they began working on a campaign, alongside Kate Middleton, on mental health campaign Heads Together. Because of the long-lasting stigma surrounding mental health, he said, reports The Times, that of the celebrities Heads Together contacted to get on board: ‘not one person wanted to be involved.’

And it's true that conversations about mental health have really picked up in the past couple of years, and you can't really underestimate the impact that two of the UK's most famous, most famously bereaved men, from a family that is so stiff upper lip it practically invented the stiff upper lip, can have by speaking out about their feelings. It’s not exactly paying for more mental health resources on the NHS, but still, there's no harm in getting people to talk about their feelings.

However, celebrities were addressing mental health way before Prince Harry and Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge put some welly into the Heads Together campaign. Perhaps Heads Together should have got in touch with: Zoella, footballer Clarke Carlisle, Sir Patrick Stewart, Ruby Wax, Trisha Goddard, Frank Bruno, Patsy Palmer, Mel C, Gok Wan and Trevor Nelson. Granted, they’re not all A-listers, but they, just like the Princes, were very happy to get involved in raising mental health awareness before the Princes got involved. Eventually, Lady Gaga joined in on the campaign:

One of the first celebrities to get real about mental health was, of course, Princess Diana, who spoke candidly about her own battle with bulimia, her mental breakdowns and suicide attempts. In 1993, she gave a speech at Turning Point, a social enterprise providing health and social care, saying: 'Isn't it normal not to be able to cope all the time? Isn't it normal for women as well as men to feel frustrated with life? Isn't it normal to feel angry and want to change a situation that is hurting?'

'Perhaps we need to look more closely at the cause of the illness rather than attempt to suppress it. To accept that putting a lid on powerful feelings and emotions cannot be the healthy option.'

Fast-forward to 2019, and Wills, at his talk in Davos, is carrying on his mother's legacy, explaining where the British stiff upper lip came from. He said that the Queen’s generation learned to bottle up their feelings after the Second World War after having survived: ‘such horrendous circumstances that no matter how much you can talk you were never going to fix the issue’

He added: ‘It was very, very difficult for everybody, losing so many loved ones. Completely by accident they passed that on to the next generation. We all learn from our parents. We all learn from how they deal with things. So this whole generation inherited that this is how we deal with problems, we don’t talk about them.’

But now, thanks to the Princes, and all those other high-profile people who came after - and, crucially, before - them in the battle against silence around mental health, the conversation is happening.

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