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Duke of Cambridge on mental health: “I still find it very difficult to talk about”

At a panel discussion on mental health Wednesday, Prince William told the packed audience that attitudes towards mental health are changing and that the current generation has been a catalyst for change.

Billed as the Mental Health Matters panel, the discussion was based on the following question: “One in four people will experience mental illness in their lives, costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion by 2030. What can the global community do to promote mental health across all facets of society?”

“This is a generational issue,” Prince William said. “We got to start tackling it now so that our children and our grandchildren don’t have to go through this process and they can be a lot more open about it.”

Prince William was joined on the panel by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and various business leaders and charity directors including Becky Quick, John Flint, Bernard J. Tyson, and Dixon Chibanda.

“I think now there’s a generation here that are finally realising that this is not normal, and we should talk about it, and we should get over it,” William said.

He noted that Britons are famous for their stiff upper lips and stoicism, particularly those who lived through wartime generations and decided that the only way to get through the hardships was to not talk about it.

“Wartime was very, very difficult for everybody…no matter how much you would talk; you were never going to fix the issue. A whole generation decided that this was the best way of dealing with it. They then, completely by accident, passed that on to the next generation.

“So, a whole generation inherited [the idea] that this was the way you deal with your problems: you don’t talk about it.”

Photo: World Economic Forum/CC/Flickr

William also spoke about his mental health during shifts as an air ambulance pilot, particularly one incident that left him visibly emotional.

“I still find it very difficult to talk about,” William said. “I get very emotional about it because it relates very closely to my children and so it is very hard to talk about it.”

He spoke about how it stuck with him, how he hasn’t gotten over it.

“You go through someone else’s pain, and you live with it, and I just felt the most important thing was understanding and realising it was there, and I think if I hadn’t been doing what I was doing I might have gone into my shell a bit and gone, ‘I can deal with this myself,’ and then potentially down the line, it manifests itself in a much worse situation.”

William said he would talk about it with his colleagues to debrief the incident and discuss their feelings.

“I know if I hadn’t taken the action I did then I would’ve definitely gone down a slippery slope and I would’ve been dealing with mental illness on a different level.”

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.