The Duke of Cambridge is at the heart of a brilliant initiative. He is tackling men mental health stigma with soccer. The approach is incredibly powerful. Harnessing the worldwide influence of the beautiful game can be a game changer.
Tackling Men Mental Health Stigma With Soccer
Prince William is fully committed to combatting mental health’s issues, and it shows.
He is an active ambassador for Heads Together, a mental health initiative spearheaded by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 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.
On 15th May 2019 at Wembley Stadium, The Duke of Cambridge, announced a season-long partnership with the Football Association, of which he is also President.
“We are here today to take a big step in shattering this silence. We are going to use one of the most powerful, unifying forces in our society – football – to start the biggest ever conversation on mental health.” – The Duke of Cambridge
#HeadsUp, a game-changing campaign
The #HeadsUp campaign launches at The FA Community Shield on August 4th 2019, and will culminate at the FA Cup Final in May 2020. Throughout the 2019/20 season, the campaign will be visible across all levels of football in England – through the men’s and women’s England teams, FA competitions, and grassroots activation.
When you understand the influence of soccer and the global audience of English football, you know that this can be a game changing initiative in tackling men mental health stigma.
Shifting the conversation in locker rooms and changing the culture
I first became aware of Prince William’s commitment to mental health issues when I stumbled upon a BBC documentary called, A Royal Team Talk.
The program features a frank and revealing conversation to encourage men to talk about the importance of mental health and mental fitness. The Duke met with soccer superstars including Thierry Henry, Peter Crouch, Danny Rose, Jermaine Jenas and Gareth Southgate.
As French native and a very big fan, I was particularly moved my Thierry Henry’s words. He candidly shares about the backlash following his infamous handball against the Republic of Ireland in 2009 and how it affected his family and mental health.
Some of what he shares is heartbreaking.
“So my family started to be hurt. That’s when I’m vulnerable.” (…) “For the first time I’m like, well this is out of my hands.” (…) “Anyway, anyhow, no, but that was out of my hands and it’s so hard when you can see that your people are hurt. There is nothing you can do about it, because I didn’t plan that.”
“Nobody offered any support. You are alone in this type of moment. Nobody phones you, nobody says ‘how are you?’ (…) “You deal with it alone. You deal with it alone.” (…) “My only way is like okay, tomorrow’s another day.” (…) “You move on, but you never dealt with the problem.”
And then, he concludes by a crushing confession:
“I never learned to respect somebody that opens his heart.”
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“I never learned to respect somebody that opens his heart.” Thierry Henry
As a man that grew up in the projects in France, I can sadly relate to what Thierry Henry says. His influence makes his words even more powerful. This why Prince William initiative to tackles men mental health stigma with soccer is crucial. Harnessing the global reach of soccer and its superstar is a major steps to shift the culture.