Published 6 July 2017

Good morning,

I am delighted to be here in Leeds today to join you for this discussion on the importance of mental health amongst young people.

We all have mental health – just as we all have physical health. It is so important that we look after our mental wellbeing in the same way that we look after our physical health, but too often people choose to ignore it. On average, it takes someone who is struggling with their mental health about ten years to admit they have a problem.

What this means is that, something which may start as a minor issue will spiral downwards over time to become a serious and persistent problem, perhaps even requiring professional help.  

William, Catherine and I started the Heads Together campaign because we saw through our work that the stigma around mental health – was preventing people from seeking help.

Those who had been working in this space for many years told us we could really help by shining a light on the power of conversations and thus help break down the stigma.

This year there has been a lot spoken about mental health, not just by the Heads Together campaign but by many other organisations and initiatives focused on mental health. The many voices that we've heard from across the country have helped to normalise the discussion about mental health, taking it away from a presumption of mental illness to a broad ranging and, most significantly, positive conversation.

Since the London Marathon two months ago, I have spoken to many people who now feel able to reach out to family, friends and colleagues and discuss what they have been feeling. But what has struck me most is the number of people I've met, who have direct experience of mental health challenges, either themselves or those close to them. So many of these stories could have been very different if awareness was better and help had been sought sooner.

I cannot tell you how pleased William, Catherine and I am that the dial seems to have shifted and that there is now greater understanding, compassion and kindness for anyone who opens up about their struggles.

But let's not kid ourselves that the job is done - there is much much more that we can do at every level to make conversations about mental health as common place as those about physical health. For example, we need to better equip our young people with the tools they need to cope with this increasingly complex and fast moving world we live in.

I read recently that young people check their phones at least 150 times per day – I'm sure we could all be more effective and efficient if we took a moment to process our thoughts rather than rushing from one thing to the next. I won't dwell on this point as I'm sure the panel will have more to say around our mental fitness.

I have been so impressed by the commitment of this City and the Leeds Community Foundation in focusing on mental health. You have been leading the way in bringing funding and expertise together in support of local community solutions. 

I have just met some of the organisations you have supported; they are working across such a broad range of groups from young people coping with the stresses of life and school, women facing domestic abuse, the LGBT community and those caring for loved ones; each group requiring a unique kind of support.

It is this kind of dedicated support which not only helps people to tackle their personal challenges but enables them to go on and flourish. If we invest in supporting our young people now, they will be better placed to succeed in all areas of their lives from work to family and in their communities.

I want to congratulate you all on what you have achieved so far and encourage you to redouble your efforts – in the years to come it will be well worth the investment.

Thank you.