The Duke of Cambridge wants football fans to change the game on mental fitness, introducing a new initiative called ‘Heads Up’ in a video message to attendees of Sunday’s 2019 Community Shield.
The season-long campaign, which was announced at a press conference in May, is a partnership with the Football Association and The Royal Foundation’s ‘Heads Together’ initiative. Heads Up is geared at getting football fans to talk about their mental health and to reach out for help when they need it, using the popularity of the sport and its players to get people talking.
Prince William, who is President of the Football Association, said: “We are here today to take a big step in shattering this silence. We are going to use one of the most powerful, unifying forces in our society – football – to start the biggest ever conversation on mental health.”
“Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, with suicide the most likely cause of death for men under the age of 45,” according to Heads Up. Harnessing the popularity of football to try and erase the stigma of discussing mental health – especially for men – is a major goal of the campaign.
“As the first whistle blows on the new season of football today, all of the focus is on the excitement for the year ahead,” the Duke of Cambridge said in Sunday’s video during the match between Liverpool and Manchester City. “But as we talk about the physical fitness of the players involved, it’s important we take a moment to think about their mental fitness too. But we shouldn’t confine it to just the teams on the pitch, because we all have mental health.”
The Duke discussed the importance of reaching out to one another and providing support during life’s difficulties, ensuring everyone can be “match fit for whatever lies ahead.”
After he introduced the Heads Up campaign, Prince William encouraged everyone watching to join in the singing of the clubs’ anthems, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Blue Moon’ by two community choirs, iChoir from Liverpool and Bee Vocal from Manchester.
According to Heads Up, both of the choirs “were created to support mental wellbeing and to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. The iconic anthems refer to themes of isolation and the importance of togetherness – some of the core messages behind the campaign.”
Fans who are experiencing a mental health issue and need immediate support can text ‘HeadsUp’ to 85258 and speak to a trained crisis volunteer 24/7. The ‘Shout’ crisis text line service is free to text from most mobile networks.
“As texting is private and silent, it opens up a whole new way to find help,” The Duke of Cambridge said when Shout was launched in May.
As the football season continues, Heads Up “will roll out across all levels of the game – from the elite to grassroots; and will come to life again at some of the biggest football moments in The FA’s season, all building up to The Emirates FA Cup Final in May 2020.”