The Duke of Cambridge spent Thursday in Liverpool with the Everton football club and their Everton in the Community initiatives to support the Heads Up campaign launched last year.
William viewed the work of three projects supported by Everton in the Community: Stand Together, Everton Veterans’ Hub, and Tackling the Blues during his visit.
Upon arrival, Prince William met with dignitaries from Liverpool, including the Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, the High Sheriff, and the Lord Mayor of Liverpool; and Everton in the Community Chief Executive Richard Kenyon, who was his host.Embed from Getty Images
Before visiting the Everton in the Community programmes, he received an update on the work the football club does for mental health charities and learned about The People’s Place, which is a “purpose-built mental health facility” that will be built and opened with Everton’s support.
William’s first visit was with a Tackling the Blues session hosted by Everton football team players Jordan Pickford and Theo Walcott, with Professor Andy Smith from Edge Hill University, at the Springwell Park Community Primary School students.
Tackling the Blues is a “sport and education-based programme targeting young people aged 6-16 who are experiencing, or are at risk of, developing mental health problems,” per the Everton in the Community website, and has helped over 850 young people since its creation three years ago.
The weekly sessions work to help young people through the use of sports and education and open discussion about mental health.
The Duke of Cambridge joined the youngsters in playing a game of emoji bingo to help encourage discussion about their own emotions and also encouraged them to talk to their friends and families if they needed to reach out.Embed from Getty Images
He couldn’t resist a little bit of friendly gameplay though—after playing with the blue team, he moved over to the red team’s table and joked, “I don’t want to pull away. I’m just going to go over to the winning side, okay?”
William then had a frank discussion with Everton players Seamus Coleman, Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Pickford and Walcott about Heads Up and mental health.
Calvert-Lewin spoke about the pressures of being an athlete with a huge fan base, saying, “One thing that you cannot prepare for is the opinions of thousands and thousands of people. You cannot please all of the people all the time. We have had a tough time for two or three seasons, and we have had to help each other through that. Having that foundation helps to get us through it and crack on.”
William replied that he hoped Heads Up encourages taking care of their mental wellbeing due to “fan pressure, emotional pressure, and peer pressure.”
His Royal Highness then visited the Everton Veterans’ Hub, which aims to “to engage ex-service personnel who are at risk of isolation with sport, training and social activities.”Embed from Getty Images
Joined by Everton footballers, William met with a group of veterans to discuss mental health and asked about their transition to civilian life. When they told him that they found the transition difficult, the Duke replied, “The bit I have always found difficult is the skills you learn in the forces don’t translate into civvy life. We can get better at translating these skills.”
Six hundred veterans have been served by the Everton Veterans’ Hub programme since its debut in 2016. The footballers and the veterans then took part in a pick-up game of football while William watched.Embed from Getty Images
Finally, Prince William visited the Stand Together programme, which “aims to tackle social isolation for those aged 70+ living in Merseyside by providing four days of bespoke activities each week,” supports nearly 200 adults every week, according to the Everton in the Community website.
When the Duke of Cambridge arrived to learn more about the programme, the seniors all stood to greet him, but he demurred and told them there was no need for them to do so. During their session, William was joined by Everton players Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin to talk with the seniors about football memories.
The Stand Together programme has been lauded for its impact in “reducing social isolation, improving behaviour and mental wellbeing” by Edge Hill University.
“It has been a tremendous honour for us to welcome The Duke of Cambridge to Liverpool 4 this afternoon and to provide him with the opportunity to visit some of our mental health programmes,” said Richard Kenyon, the Everton in the Community Chief Executive in a statement on their website.Embed from Getty Images
“It was fantastic to see him interacting with some of our participants and to see him chatting with our amazing staff about their work and the positive impact it has on people’s lives.”
Heads Up is a joint venture between the Football Association and Heads Together that aims to “harness the influence and popularity of football to help show the nation that we all have mental health and it is just as important as physical health,” per the Royal Family website.