Kate embraces tearful mother at mental health awareness awards


The Duchess of Cambridge hugged a tearful mother as she attended an awards ceremony honouring the "remarkable" work of those aiming to increase awareness of mental health.

Place2Be's Wellbeing in Schools Awards were held at the City of London's Mansion House on Tuesday to celebrate the ambassadors of positive mental health, where Kate gave a speech and presented the Child Champion and Young Person Champion awards.

As the UK's leading children's mental health charity, Place2Be works with schools and provides support and expert training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff.

Kate who has been a patron of the charity since 2013, wore a black cocktail dress by Preen and met with finalists in the reception area of the grand building ahead of the second biennial ceremony.

She could be seen hugging the mother of Ethan Knapton, who despite his Asperger syndrome has raised awareness of the condition and has even delivered assemblies in a bid to reduce bullying and inform others of how it affects him.

The 13-year-old who was a young person champion award finalist told Kate how he was bullied in primary school and that Place2Be helped him to build up his confidence - mum Ceri could be seen welling up as she listened to her son speak to the royal.

"It was just hearing him talk," she said of her tears and pride towards her son who attends Fulwood Academy in Preston, Lancashire.

Also receiving a hug off Princess Diana when she was younger, Ceri who was crying and embraced by Kate, said: "She just said to me 'I have got to give you a hug - as a mum' - it was really lovely actually."

As the awards got under way Kate took to the stage to address the 350 guests who had packed out the ornate room.

The duchess said it was "a great honour" to be at the event to celebrate their "remarkable work".

She said: "Without many of the inspiring people gathered here this evening, countless children would not receive the transformational support in their schools.

"It is because of so many of you, that in their time of need, children have the help, care and attention that will get them through tough times in their lives.

"I am a firm believer that it is absolutely crucial to confront problems as early as possible, to prevent them from escalating into even greater issues later in life. This is why Place2Be's work - prioritising children's emotional wellbeing from the outset - is so important."

Describing the six Young Champion finalists as "extraordinary", Kate praised their resilience and said in their willingness to have open conversations have all become "mental health pioneers".

She added: "Well done to you all. I cannot tell you how moved I was to be here this evening."

Cerys Kenny was awarded the Child Champion Award by the duchess after she developed the 'Kenny Approach' at her school Longwood Primary Academy in Harlow, Essex.

The 11-year-old said after suffering with anger issues herself, she created a booklet that helps others cope with the same problem - developing the resource which includes breathing exercises and other useful tips.

"It has helped out my whole primary school, it has become a thing now which is being used," she said.

"It is about four or five pages - but it is really helpful. I was just sitting at home one day and I came up with a couple of bits here and there."

Kaii Bailey won the young person champion award for overcoming her own challenges and demonstrating resilience after turning her life around, which was also handed to her by Kate.

The 16-year-old said she "went off the rails" and was on the verge of being kicked out of school, but in Year 11 following a wake up call in the form of a final warning a couple of months before her exams, she said something "kicked" in her to make a change.

"I started working harder, a lot harder, and I managed to pull through and pass all my exams," the former Ark Walworth Academy pupil said.

Kaii said she mentored younger children before she left to go to college and wants to go back on a voluntary basis to help others struggling with experiences similar to what she went through.

Mental Health is an important priority for the duchess - along with the duke and Prince Harry they set up the Heads Together campaign which aims to challenge the stigma around talking about mental health.

The awards are open exclusively to Place2Be partner schools, who were invited to nominate inspiring ambassadors who have shown a remarkable commitment to championing children and young people's mental health.

They recognise the work of school leaders, teachers, support staff, parent champions, child champions and Place2Be colleagues who go above and beyond to enhance the life of the school community.

Founded in 1994, the charity works directly with more than 282 primary and secondary schools across Wales, Scotland and England, reaching a school population of over 116,000 pupils.