Speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the Workplace Wellbeing Conference
1 March 2018
Two years ago, I set out – along with Catherine and Harry – to help lead a national conversation on mental health. The three of us had seen that the issue sat at the heart of so many of the causes we cared about – whether that was the health of children and families; the care provided to our veterans; work to combat homelessness; or the epidemic of suicide.
With Heads Together, we worked with our partners to spread a simple message: just starting a conversation on mental health could make all the difference.
When you can talk about something, you have less reason to fear it. And when you can talk about something, you are much more likely to ask for help.
Last year, we campaigned to get this message to everyone who needed to hear it. And people really did get talking – in towns, in villages, cities, between young and old, and amongst men and women.
Having started that national conversation, we feel a responsibility to make sure it can carry on with proper support, information and signposting. We have launched a programme to help teachers support mental health conversations in schools, and we have invested £2 million in a startup to come up with new ways to support conversations that happen online or on the phone. We have created a new partnership with the Ministry of Defence to provide better information to servicemen and women and veterans.
And now, we are turning our attention to a place where I believe better conversations on mental health could transform the lives of millions: the workplace.
Everyone in this room knows that while work can provide a great sense of fulfilment, it can – at times – be a significant source of stress and negatively impact our mental health.
Yet, data from the Heads Together campaign showed that the number of people who would feel able to talk to their HR departments about their mental health was a mere 2%. This illustrates a problem for businesses.
For me, this is personal. I worked in a job as an air ambulance pilot quite recently where along with my colleagues, I dealt with very traumatic and stressful situations. But in my place of work, mental health was taken very seriously. We could be open about our experiences and could support our colleagues when they needed it, including very thorough debriefs. We knew how to talk about pressure and knew where to direct each other for help.
That is what we need in every workplace in this country.
I am delighted that The Royal Foundation and Mind will be launching a new Workplace Wellbeing Programme in September to support employers across the country – in particular, small to medium enterprises, who often struggle to find the resources to prioritise this issue.
The new programme will include an online portal of resources for employers, along with online SME Employee Training. And you’ll hear more about this from Paul Farmer in a minute.
I have just come upstairs from a roundtable meeting with a number of industry leaders where we talked in more detail about the challenges surrounding workplace mental health and how each delegate is prepared to champion this issue in each of their sectors.
And what struck me from this discussion was how critical buy-in at senior level to this will be – both in ensuring priority is given to supporting positive mental health among the staff; but also in setting an example – particularly a leading example – that talking about mental health is to be encouraged.
I encourage all of you here today to explore how the Workplace Wellbeing Programme can help you and others in your sector to embrace an issue that affects so many people.
I must take this opportunity to thank Mind and Paul who have been key driving forces to delivering this programme. And also huge thank-you to Unilever for all they’ve done and their significant contribution in putting workplace mental health on the agenda.
With…with all of you on board, I am confident we can and will change the way we think about mental health in this nation.
Thank you for your time and your support.