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Monday, 09 October 2017

William hails 'fantastic' mental health campaign as £2m boost announced

Written by Peter Cary

The Duke of Cambridge has praised the "fantastic" work of the royal Heads Together campaign, as his charitable foundation announced a £2 million investment towards a new mental health start-up company.

On a visit to Imperial College London's Data Observatory on Friday, William learned about the campaign's progress in its drive to "change the conversation on mental health".

He heard how The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry would be investing in the establishment of a new organisation aimed at creating "digital solutions" for mental health.

The start-up, which has yet to be named, will create digital signposts to direct people to mental health services online, and other tools promoting conversation between those struggling with their mental wellbeing.

The £2 million grant represents the largest single donation the foundation has made since it began operating in 2011, and the conclusion of the first phase of its Heads Together campaign to raise awareness and promote openness around mental health issues in the UK.

During his visit, William was greeted by the director of the Imperial College Data Science Institute, Professor Yi-Ke Guo, and the chief executive of leading mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, who introduced the Duke to some of the statistics behind the campaign since its launch in May 2016.

The Prince was shown a collection of data visualisations from the biggest ever series of surveys on mental health involving 14,000 members of the British public, and the way the campaign has impacted on willingness to speak about mental health issues.

The surveys suggested that a total 1.5 million more people (3%) were talking about mental health in May compared to February 2017, when the surveys were launched, with a 12% increase in the number of those admitting to talking about their own mental health.

The demonstrations also showed the impact of initiatives such as Heads Together's official charity status in the 2017 London marathon, after which the campaign's eight charity partners saw large increases in referrals to their respective mental health services.

Mr Farmer said that Mind's information line experienced its busiest ever day after the marathon, with 58% more calls than normal.

After hearing about the work of the campaign, William said: "Wow. Lots of figures. Amazing," and added that it had been "fantastic" to see data about the campaign's impact around the UK.

However, noting that there was still more to do in promoting willingness to talk about personal mental health issues, William expressed concern that three in four suicides in the UK are men.

He said: "That's still a worrying statistic though, it really is."

The campaign now aims to move into its second phase, where it plans to further enable people to talk about their mental health, including through the work of the foundation's new start-up company.

Asked if the campaign had got off to a good start, Mr Farmer said: "I'd go a little further than that. I think it's been a really good start that is creating a platform for changing the conversation around mental health."

The former director of programmes at The Royal Foundation, Victoria Hornby, will become the chief executive of the digital innovation start-up when it begins operating in January 2018.

She said: "The new digital start-up will bring together experts in mental health and technology to find and create new solutions.

"We want to use the power of technology to reach the millions of people, especially young people, who feel isolated and alone, and help them to find the right place to talk."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Tolga Akmen / PA Wire.