Talking about mental health ‘vital’ as sport returns, says Duke of Cambridge

The Duke of Cambridge has joined England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson and other sporting greats to discuss the issue of mental health across UK sport.

The virtual meeting featured stars including tennis player Jamie Murray, Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, Paralympic cyclist Dame Sarah Storey, skeleton racer Lizzy Yarnold, and former Arsenal and Lionesses footballer Alex Scott.

During the online call, William said it is “vital” the mental wellbeing of sportspeople and fans is talked about.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was also involved in the meeting, as well as former Tottenham Hotspur captain and England international Ledley King, and England international hockey player Maddie Hinch.

Many of those who attended spoke about their own personal experiences and how maintaining good mental health helped them be better athletes.

The discussion was an opportunity to talk about the barriers that have previously prevented some sportspeople from identifying and accessing the support they need.

The group also discussed how elite sport could lead the way in supporting the mental and physical health of the wider population.

William told those on the call: “Through the Heads Up campaign, the football community has come together to do its part in driving lasting change by encouraging people to open up about their mental wellbeing, at the same time as embedding a mentally healthy culture across the sport.

Duke of Cambridge
The Duke of Cambridge has championed the Heads Together initiative (John Stillwell/PA)

“I believe that there is more we can do collectively to ensure this is replicated across all of sport.

“And that is why I am so happy to be here with you all to discuss how we can make that a reality.

“We have a unique opportunity to use the tragedy of the pandemic to bring about positive change.

“As the sporting world begins to return it is vital that we talk about the mental wellbeing of our sportspeople and fans.”

The roundtable was convened to inform a review of the Government’s Mental Health and Elite Sport Action Plan as well as the continuing work on the return of competitive elite sport and opportunities being explored to use sport in promoting messages around mental health.

Mr Dowden said: “Looking after our mental health is as important as our physical health, particularly through the pandemic which has brought about additional stress and change.

“The resumption of sport behind closed doors coincides with many people returning to work too, so it’s a good time to make sure everyone knows support is available.”

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