The Duke of Cambridge said there is “a long way to go” to remove the stigma around mental health issues as he urged football clubs to “aspire to be much better”.
William was speaking as he hosted an outdoor screening of the FA Cup Final on the lawn of Sandringham House to raise the profile of his Heads Up mental health campaign.
This season’s Arsenal vs Chelsea final was renamed the Heads Up FA Cup Final after the campaign spear-headed by William to help raise awareness of the topic.
William joined guests on blue and white striped deckchairs to watch the game on a big screen at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, with Wembley empty due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to kick-off, he correctly guessed that Arsenal would beat Chelsea 2-1, although he admitted that he was not meant to make such predictions as president of the FA.
He was joined by guests including former England and Arsenal captain Tony Adams, who helped found Heads Up, Lioness and Chelsea women’s player Fran Kirby, who has previously spoken about her own struggles with depression and comedian Romesh Ranganathan, who is an ambassador for the charity Calm – the Campaign Against Living Miserably.
The prince was also joined by a small group of frontline workers, Heads Up ambassadors and members of Norfolk-based Arsenal and Chelsea supporters’ groups.
Before kick-off, William spoke to some of his guests and heard about their experiences of coping with mental health challenges.
Discussing the stigma around mental health with guests, William told the BBC: “We’ve got a long way to go to kind of shatter the whole thing (the stigma around mental health), but days like today and campaigns like this hopefully are shifting us all in the right direction.
“The fact that all the football world have signed a mental health declaration stating that this matters shows that at least sportsmen and women are thinking about it as part of their day to day life and it’s the same in the blue light community, so the NHS, the police.
“We want to open up and be more understanding about mental health matters and hopefully society catches up and they go ‘if they can do it we can as well’. It’s a long thing.”
The duke said the campaign, which has been encouraging football fans to talk about issues in their lives, had been built on “other people’s good work”.
He said he hoped the legacy from the initiative would make “mentally healthy clubs look at themselves and want to aspire to be that much better”.
He was speaking to Ben Summers, 41, of Grays in Essex, who is a volunteer for Shout, a 24/7 text service to help people in crisis, which was developed by the Cambridges’ Royal Foundation.
Mr Summers said afterwards: “He seems to get it.
“I volunteer with Shout that he set up as well and he said he’s been on the platform and done it himself so the fact he’s volunteered on there and must have talked to people via text, they wouldn’t have known who they were talking to, it’s incredible that he puts himself into it.
“It’s okay being the face of something, but he’s actually putting the effort into it and doing it himself.”
In a lighter moment, William shared his prediction for the FA Cup Final with an Arsenal fan ahead of kick-off.
“I’m thinking 2-1 Arsenal,” the prince said. “I’m not allowed to predict apparently.
“People say ‘you’re the president of the FA, you can’t’.
“I’m like, ‘I’m not officiating, I can predict surely, I’m not actually a referee’.”
Speaking to two Norwich fans, Aston Villa supporter William said: “Commiserations. I honestly thought I was going to be joining you guys this season. It was so close.
“We were a bit lucky as well. It’s been a weird season.”
Speaking about Villa’s draw at West Ham on Sunday, which helped them avoid relegation from the Premier League, the duke said: “The nerves were the worst I’ve ever known them.
“My children looked at me in horror as I was jumping off the sofa, screaming my head off.
“It’s very good news that as president of the FA that I can hide away until these moments, and I’m not visibly seen because it was one of the most stressful moments of my life, as I imagine every Villa fan felt on that day.
“But I’m very proud of everything the club has done this year and look forward to next season.”
The Heads Up campaign is a partnership between the FA and the Cambridges’ Heads Together initiative.
Heads Together combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services.