HRH Prince William Kicks Off Conversations About Mental Health

Credit: The Royal Foundation’s Heads Up campaign

The most revered English football title will be up for grabs again now that the football season has resumed following the coronavirus pandemic. And the showpiece event in the calendar – the FA Cup Final – will be dedicated to changing the conversation on mental health.

The FA Cup Final, which is scheduled for Saturday 1st August, is being renamed the Heads Up FA Cup in support of The Royal Highness’ season-long mental health campaign.

HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, discussed the significance of this dedication on a recent video call with Arsenal first-team players, Head Coach Mikel Arteta and Academy Manager, Per Mertesacker. They also discussed the mental health implications of the coronavirus pandemic, the role football can play in tackling mental health, and how Arsenal is supporting coaching staff and players, including those at the Academy level, as well as the wider football community.


During the call, with the FA Cup trophy glinting in the background, The Duke said of the Heads Up FA Cup Final:

“We’re going to really use the Final as a moment to promote good, positive mental health for everyone. It’s quite timely bearing in mind what we’ve all been through with this pandemic. I think there’s going to be, sadly, a lot of repercussions from this in society, not just in football, in terms of people’s mental health. Hopefully the FA Cup can be a bit of a pivot that people can rally around.”

How sport supports mental health at a local level

From elite sport through to grass-roots participation, sports can be used to reduce stigma and start positive conversations about mental health.

In the UK, the Sport and Recreation Alliance worked with the mental health charity Mind and the Professional Players Association to create the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. Launched in 2015, The Charter now works with over 300 organisations to promote mental wellbeing through sport and physical activity.

In our recent report for Make A Difference News, James Mapstone, Chief Executive of The Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice recognised that sport not only promotes physical and mental wellbeing; it can empower and support change as well as unite communities.

The Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice’s Levelling the Playing Field initiative uses the power of sport to engage and improve health and life outcomes for more than 11,200 black, Asian and minority ethnic children aged 10 to 17 who are in, or on the fringes of, the Criminal Justice System.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. the Legends of Lawndale initiative is funded by the Movember Foundation. This is an example of a mentorship programme that uses basketball to focus on supporting young men and boys of colour who are growing up in a challenging environment.

It’s not all about football

At a virtual roundtable meeting the Duke of Cambridge was joined by tennis player Jamie Murray, Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, Paralympic cyclist Dame Sarah Storey, skeleton racer Lizzy Yarnold, and former Arsenal and Lionesses footballer Alex Scott.

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As reported in The Independent, the Duke of Cambridge said: “Through the Heads Up campaign, the football community has come together to do its part in driving lasting change by encouraging people to open up about their mental wellbeing, at the same time as embedding a mentally healthy culture across the sport”.

“I believe that there is more we can do collectively to ensure this is replicated across all sport”.

Hannah Macleod MBE is a Double Olympic Gold Medallist with the Great Britain Women’s hockey team. She believes passionately in the power of sport to boost mental health – beyond starting conversations – and is a supporter of Mental Health Charity Mind’s Get Set to Go project. This project is making a difference by helping people with mental health problems to get active.

Hannah echos the Duke of Cambridge’s call for collective action across all sport. In this Huffington Post article she explains that she would love to see us all, but particularly the countries’ sports and recreation organisations, getting behind the recommendations of Mind’s Get Set to Go project and helping more people with mental health problems become and remain physically active.

You can read more of Hannah’s thoughts, including her advice for employers looking to support the mental and physical wellbeing of their workforce in her exclusive interview for Make A Difference News.

Linking mental and physical wellbeing at work

Even before the coronavirus hit, progressive workplaces around the globe had recognised the link between mental and physical health and were proactively communicating this to their employees.

In her article for Make A Difference News by ASICS’ Vice President of Human Resources for the EMEA region, Melinda Brooks-Bray, explains how she is ensuring ASICS’ Sound Mind in a Sound Body philosophy is embedded within the ASICS business.

One insight emerging from our first Make A Difference Engagement, Culture and Workplace Wellbeing survey in 2019 was that even though mental health engagement was on the up, employers were struggling to break the taboo of other areas of wellbeing, such as healthy eating and exercise.

Perhaps, thanks to high profile initiatives such as The Royal Highness’ mental health campaign, as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, more people will be realising the connection between mental and physical health. And employers will find it easier to address the taboos.

About the author

Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for the Mad World and Make a Difference Summits. She also drives the content for Make A Difference News. Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times


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