The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have long been advocates of mental health campaigns, having launched the Heads Together campaign in 2017 with Prince Harry, which promotes innovative new mental health services and tackles stigma surrounding mental health. Now, the Duke and Duchess have joined forces with the NHS and Public Health England (PHE) to launch their latest mental health campaign urging the public to take extra care of their mental wellbeing, as well as physical, amid the challenges that come with the latest lockdown measures.
Surveys carried out at the end of March 2020, when the UK lockdown began, already suggest anxiety and isolation are affecting the public. Writing in The Lancet Psychiatry, psychiatrists and psychologists are now calling for urgent research as they believe the coronavirus pandemic could have a "profound" effect on the public’s mental health.
"Increased social isolation, loneliness, health anxiety, stress and an economic downturn are a perfect storm to harm people's mental health and wellbeing," Professor Rory O'Connor, University of Glasgow, one of the authors of the Lancet report told BBC News.
Will and Kate's latest mental health campaign, ‘Every Mind Matters’, is targeted at those most at-risk of poor mental health and encourages the public to sign up for its tailored ‘Covid-19 Minds’ scheme online. The short online quiz provides a personalised plan to tackle some of the worries surrounding mental health, and advice on improving symptoms of depression and anxiety at home, as well as supporting friends and family.
The platform, which has been online since October but only recently adapted to provide coronavirus-specific content, features free access to activities such as breathing exercises and muscle relaxation as well as resources on issues such as anxiety, stress, low moods and poor sleep, developed with the help of leading charities including Mind, Mental Health Foundation, Samaritans, Rethink and Mental Health First Aid England.
“We can feel frustrated, miss loved ones or get anxious. So now more than ever, Every Mind Matters,” said the Duke and Duchess in a video accompanying the launch. The couple, who are in lockdown at their Norfolk home, also acknowledged how the “pressure, stress and isolation” can build up in the lockdown, explaining that this period of time is “not always easy”.
"If we are going to go forward with more time spent in lockdown, then there is going to be an ever-increasing need for people to look after their mental health and take it seriously and also know where to go to get the support they might need," said the Duke in a video interview with the BBC. Prince William went on to reveal how anxious he was when his father, Prince Charles, was diagnosed with the virus because, at 71, he was at an age “which is fairly risky”.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has also backed the Every Mind Matters campaign. “Staying at home and not seeing friends and loved ones can take its toll and it is completely understandable to feel overwhelmed or anxious,” he said. “Whether it’s through exercise, keeping to a routine, or trying something new – there is so much we can do to keep our minds healthy and prevent issues becoming more serious – and I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of this brilliant resource.”
The Duke and Duchess have been speaking to frontline health workers via video link over the last three weeks, admiring the “extraordinary job” they were doing, and made a surprise video call to Captain Tom, the WWII veteran who has raised over £17 million for the NHS, after the couple had made a personal donation to his cause.