British RoyalsThe Cambridges

The Duke of Cambridge plays Jenga to discuss mental health


@KensingtonRoyal/Twitter

The Duke of Cambridge joined footballers for a game of Jenga to ‘kick up a conversation’ on mental health as he continues to promote the Heads Up Program and Heaps Up Weekends at football matches this spring.

The video, released on Kensington Palace’s Twitter account, shows William playing Jenga with footballers from Crystal Palace, the Arsenal women’s team, Watford, Wycombe Wanderers, and Manchester United as they answer questions, which were printed onto the blocks, pertaining to mental health every time they remove a piece.

William drew the first block, which asked, “How are you today?” He said he was good and that he was pleased that Heads Up was doing well and that he was happy he got to play with Andros Townsend, Troy Deeney, Scott McTominay, Adebayo Akinfenwa and Kelly Smith.

“That question’s very broad,” said Troy Deeney of Watford FC. “We say it every day, and…do we mean it? Do we actually care how that person is or is it a throwaway comment?”

He said that as a result of the Jenga game, a lot of questions may come out that can encourage people to care about others’ mental health on a day-to-day basis and that people may feel “they’ve got the confidence of friends or people” to be able to discuss it.

Scott McTominay of Manchester United pulled the next block, which asked: “When are you most happy?”

Adebayo Akinfenwa of the Wycombe Wanderers said that happiness changes for people over the years, but now as a father of five, he’s happiest when his house is full and noisy. Kelly Smith, a former Arsenal women’s player, said that she was happy on the football pitch representing her country, but now that she’s retired with children, that’s when she’s happiest as well.

William agreed with them, saying, “There are times when my children drive me insane, with no sleep, but I love them dearly and you’re most happy when they’re around.”

Deeney picked up the next block—saying that he was more of a Monopoly player as he did so—and pulled a question aimed towards the footballers: “How’s the season going so far for you and your team?”

Deeney, who’s been out on injury and just coming back after four months, said that the season hasn’t been that great for him personally, but he did get to score against Aston Villa—William’s team—and that was a good situation.

Akinfenwa pulled the next block, asking how football makes them feel.

William said that he enjoys the team aspect and the physicality of the sport.

“Any physical, challenging situations like that I relish. Also, it’s where I’m part of a team. Because of a lot of what I do I’m on my own a lot of the time, I have to lead a room and lead an event.

“Whereas when you’re on a pitch it takes 11 people to win. So I feel very much as long as I’ve got to look after my corner of the pitch, that’s my little territory. I kind of guard it, look after it and effectively win it for the team. I like that comradery.”

Smith drew a block asking about the perception of mental health in the football industry, and Deeney said he felt there may have been a stigma attached to talking about it a few years ago, but now that more people are being open about their mental health, it’s changing.

William said that “I like for people to be able to share stuff that really matters because that is what this is about. It’s not about making it into a big deal. We all have mental health. It’s about trying to understand somebody and understand what they’ve been through.

“Part of this is about being more open about how we feel and about being able to talk about those feelings. Not to shy away. I think we’re quite modest in this country. We don’t want to delve, we don’t want to offend anyone and we don’t really ask. We’ve got to be a bit more punchy.”

Ultimately, William pulled the Jenga block that sent the tower tumbling down.

Heads Up Weekends will be held this weekend and next and “will see every football team from across the Premier League, English Football League, The National League, The Barclays FA Women’s Super League, The FA Women’s Championship and The FA Women’s National League dedicate their matches to Heads Up,” per the Football Association’s website.



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.