Prince William has stressed that “silence can kill”, urging people struggling with their mental health to tell someone about it.
He was addressing the Guild of Health Writers at a London symposium organised with the Heads Together mental health trust founded by William, Kate and Harry last year.
He said he had benefited from a working environment as a helicopter pilot. There, all crew members were encouraged to admit to feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.
However, some people are afraid to talk about their problems. For them, minor issues can become so serious that it takes a sufferer 10 years, on average, to admit to a problem.
Mental health, he said, is the “great taboo” and it is vital to normalise the subject so it is viewed in the same way as physical health.
Until now, “if you were anxious, it’s because you were weak. If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing
“Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.
“But I got interested in mental health for another reason. One that was related to my work as an air ambulance pilot.
“It was suicide, a subject that is so often hidden. The suicide rate among young men in this country is an appalling stain on our society. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in this country. Not cancer, not knife crime, not road deaths – suicide.
“If one of these other issues took so many young lives, there would be a national outcry. But there has only ever been silence. And this has to stop. This silence is killing good people.”
He went on: “I was already experiencing the benefits of this open, positive approach to mental health in my work in search and rescue and as an air ambulance pilot.
“In both these environments, every member of the crew is actively encouraged to admit to when we are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope, whatever the cause – our work or our home life.
“My employer, I’m proud to say, knows about the value of normalising mental health, and treating it with the same respect that we confer on physical health. This should be the norm.”
The couple started their day with a visit to the Mitchell Brook Primary School for the Place2Be Big Assembly marking Children’s Mental Health Week.
The Heads Together campaign aims to unite mental health charities in a national effort to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.
It is the official charity of the 2017 London Marathon, which the trio hope will become the “mental health marathon”.
On Sunday the trio “competed” against each other in a 50m race at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The event was organised to support 150 Heads Together volunteers who are training for the marathon on April 23.