The Duchess of Cambridge has made it her mission to break down the “stigma” surrounding children’s mental health by recording a video message for a week of charity events on the subject. She believes the “overwhelming” challenges faced by children today leave some “struggling to cope”, leading to depression, anxiety, self-harm and addiction. The Duchess agreed to be the face of the first Children’s Mental Health Week, which has been organised by the charity Place2Be, of which the Duchess is Royal Patron.
Kate Middleton appears in the video appeal (left) and is at a Place2be event (right).
A recent survey showed that a third of parents would be embarrassed if their child needed counselling for mental health problems, a perception the Duchess wants to eradicate. The Duchess says: “The stigma around mental health means that many children do not get the help that they so badly need. This needs to change. That is why the charity Place2Be is asking us all to talk openly this week. We need to help young people and their parents understand that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support. No-one would feel embarrassed about asking for help for a child if they broke their arm. We really should be equally ready to support a child coping with emotional difficulties.”
The Duchess of Cambridge at the Place2Be awards at Kensington Palace in November (Photo: Place2Be)
Since becoming a mother, the Duchess, 33, has become a passionate advocate of early intervention in childhood problems like bullying, bereavement and family breakdown, which can lead to mental health problems if children are not given support. She says in the video: “Through Place2Be I have seen the benefits of offering children support for their mental health in the safety of the school environment. Both William and I sincerely believe that early action can prevent problems in childhood from turning into larger ones in later life.” Place2Be has 330 staff and 1,000 volunteer clinicians working in 200 primary schools and 35 secondary schools to offer a drop-in service where children can self-refer if they feel they need someone to talk to. Every year a third of the 94,000 children in those schools use the drop-in service to talk about problems ranging from bullying to drug abuse in the home, and 4,000 children are given one-to-one counselling. Catherine Roche, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Nationally three children in each class of 30 has a diagnosable mental health issue and another three are at a severe risk of developing similar issues.
The Duchess speaks to one of the award winners at Kensington Palace in November 2014 (Photo: Place2Be)
“We aim to help children deal with emotional issues before they become mental health problems requiring treatment or counselling. But we need to take away some of the fear that there might be around mental health, and the support of our Royal Patron should really help with that.” Nationally £10.5 billion is spent every year on mental health treatment, but only six per cent of that goes on treating children. Child and adolescent mental health services are so overstretched that some children have to wait weeks or months to be seen, making charities such as Place2Be all the more important. The Duchess recorded the video last week when she made a private visit to the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School in Beckenham, Kent, which teaches children aged four to 19 who are patients at the Bethlem and Maudsley psychiatric hospitals. A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “This is a charity that is very close to the Duchess’s heart and she is particularly interested in early intervention techniques to stop problems before they escalate.”
This article and images first appeared The Telegraph, 16 February 2015.