The Duchess of Cambridge made a warm and heartfelt speech today, calling on schools to do more to help children with mental health issues.
Kate, who was opening the Place2Be Headteacher Conference in London, said her own childhood was “wonderful and secure” but she realised that “many children are not so lucky.”
In the rare public speech, which lasted for over three minutes, the Duchess highlighted the important role schools play in providing a safe environment for young people. She said that early invention with vulnerable young people was essential to prevent problems in later life:
“Since beginning my work in areas like addiction, for example, I have seen time and time again that the roots of poor mental health in adulthood are almost always present in unresolved childhood challenges.
“I am sure you will agree that all children deserve time, attention and love from the adults in their lives. The basic qualities are so much more valuable than the always changing material and social concerns that can seem so important to young people.”
Although the Duchess has only spoken publicly a few times, Kate is said to be eager about speaking up more on the work her charities are doing and aides said today’s address, was “very much her own”
The 33-year-old, herself a mother of two, spoke today as Patron of Place2Be, a charity which offers counselling and support within schools. Recently it has been hard at work raising funds for a training programme, showing teachers how to support children’s emotional wellbeing.
Place2Be’s chief executive Catherine Roche praised Kate earlier for the “unique role” she plays as a “champion to highlight the importance of children’s mental health.”
The organisation also saw Kate speak on its behalf in a video message for Mental Health Week in February. On that occasion, she said children’s mental health is “just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support.”
Earlier she echoed that message as she called on school leaders to help vulnerable young people as early as possible.
“It is our duty, as parents and teachers, to give all children the space to build their emotional strength and provide a strong foundation for their future” Kate said, adding: “Parents, teachers and other school staff need the tools to help these young people in their lives. And the earlier, the better. It is proven that early action prevents problems later in life.”
The conference – entitled ‘My Head is Too Full’ – listened as Kate warned “many children – even those from stable, happy homes – are finding that their heads are just too full.”
The Duchess’s comments come after she presented three young people with the Fostering Achievement Award last night. The award celebrates extraordinary achievements by 16 to 24-year-olds who have been in care.
Mental health has been a rising concern for schools in recent months. Earlier this year, over 65% of school heads said they were worried about their pupils’s mental health – a sharp increase from the 14% figure last year.
Research by The World Health Organisation has suggested that depression will be the single most important health concern by 2030 and one in 10 children aged between five and 16 has a mental health problem, most of which originate before the age of 14.
Today’s conference sees headteachers from schools in the UK’s most disadvantaged areas speak about the impacts of drug and alcohol addictions – an area which the Duchess is also interested.
Wearing a £995 grey and green bejewelled Matthew Williamson dress, Kate thanked attendees for the large reach and scale of their work, saying she recognised how much was asked of them.
She will spend the rest of the day at the conference privately, listening to other speeches before speaking with students from Stewards Academy, Harlow to get their thoughts on young people’s emotional wellbeing.