The Duke of Cambridge has set out to use football “to start the biggest ever conversation on mental health” this season, and Friday he spent the day with Hendon Football Club learning about how they are tackling these issues within their club and community.
The Duke, who is president of the Football Association, visited as part of Heads Together’s “Heads Up” initiative. The programme, which launched at The Community Shield in August, focuses on using the popularity of football to help normalise talking about mental health challenges.
Hendon FC run an innovative mental health project of their own, which they carry out with Brent Early Years Intervention Service, and the duke spent time with the club to hear more about their initiatives.
According to Heads Together, Hendon FC’s programme “harnesses the power of sport and the difference physical activity and community can make on a person’s well being. It gives people in the community who are experiencing mental health problems an opportunity to play football every week – training in tailored sessions, and playing competitive games as the Hendon FC Mental Health team.”
The Duke of Cambridge headed out on the pitch to meet some of the Mental Health Team members and discuss how the club’s community outreach programme has impacted their lives. One of the players called Omar brought his mother, Sharon, who was comforted by the duke when she became emotional sharing how Hendon FC’s mental health team has made a positive impact on her son’s wellbeing.xEmbed from Getty Images
Prince William also met with some of the club’s coaches to talk about the role of mental health in sport and how they can better support their players. One of the topics the Duke discussed was racism in football, and he called several recent incidents of abuse directed at Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Inter Milan player Romelu Lukaku “outrageous.”
“Heads Up is about mental health but we are going to start doing stuff on racism as well because it is affecting mental health,” he said. “Not just the players but also fans.”Embed from Getty Images
To round off his day at Hendon FC, the Duke of Cambridge spoke with some of the club’s fans and supporters about their own mental health challenges and how football has played a role in creating a sense of community and improving their wellbeing.
His visit coincides with the launch of a new set of mental health guidelines for coaches by the FA. The new guidance notes were created in partnership with Heads Together and mental health charity Mind and according to Heads Together, they aim to help managers and coaches spot the signs of mental health problems, give them the confidence to support them, and provide information about where to signpost people to if they need support.Embed from Getty Images
“The guidance notes are being distributed across grassroots adult football and is available to every coach and manager across the football pyramid,” Heads Together says. “It includes all sorts of information and advice including a section for coaches and managers on looking after themselves; as well as tips on actions to take in an emergency; and tips on the best mental health language and terminology to use when starting a conversation.”