Published 17 January 2017

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry outline their vision for Heads Together in 2017.

It is no exaggeration to say that conversations – simple conversations – can be life-changing: in a workplace, in your kitchen at home, with a friend, family member or colleague.

The Duke of Cambridge

The Duke of Cambridge

Thank you to everyone here today for being enthusiastic about Heads Together. We launched the campaign last year and are extremely proud to support the life-changing work of our eight Charity Partners. We are also very grateful for the support of our Founding Partners.

Mental health matters to each and every one of us. It matters just as much as our physical health.   The crews I have worked with, whether RAF Search and Rescue or Air Ambulance, must take their mental health as seriously as they do their physical health or else they would not cope – and, actually, that is true for everybody at some time or another in their life. There are times when, whoever we are, it is hard to cope with challenges – and when that happens being open and honest and asking for help is life-changing.

Talking to someone else is a positive and confident step to take – but for too long it has been a case of 'Keep Quiet and Carry On'. As a result, too many people have suffered in silence for too long, and the effects of this can be devastating.

The three of us are really optimistic that things are changing.  We believe that 2017 can mark a tipping point for mental health – a moment when more and more people no longer feel they have to bear the weight alone for fear of judgment.

It is no exaggeration to say that conversations – simple conversations – can be life-changing: in a workplace, in your kitchen at home, with a friend, family member or colleague. 

And that's what Catherine, Harry and I want to do – we want more people to be having those conversations.

It is our ambition to make this year's Virgin Money London Marathon the Mental Health Marathon – a major opportunity to help change the conversation on mental health, and to get people talking.  And for that, we really need your help.

The Duchess of Cambridge

As William has said we have heard time and time again in the course of our work how talking can help heal the hidden challenges we can’t deal with alone.  We have seen that two heads are better than one when dealing with a mental health problem.

Yet, the challenge that so many people have is not knowing how to take that first step of reaching out to another person for help.  Admitting that they are not coping.  Fear, or reticence, or a sense of not wanting to burden another, means that people suffer in silence – allowing the problem to grow larger and larger unchecked. 

William, Harry and I have been very privileged to witness in the course of our work countless examples of simple conversations that have changed lives, which were the first step on a path to recovery.  Just last week at the Anna Freud Centre, I heard from one mother how talking to a support worker was – in her words – like medicine.  Simply by having someone there to have a conversation with helped her immensely.  

So the question that William, Harry and I have asked ourselves is how we can get more people to start talking.  How do we encourage people to take the first step.  

What Heads Together is proposing is that in the weeks leading up to the Marathon, our campaign will showcase people from all walks of life, talking about the life-changing conversations that have helped them with their mental health challenges.

We hope that these real-life examples will serve as encouragement to others to do the same. 

If we succeed with this, we will have taken a powerful step in normalizing mental health as an issue in our society, thinking about it as we do our own physical health. 

Harry will explain more in a moment about what you can do to help us with this challenge. 

But first I would like to introduce Jon, who is running for Heads Together in the Marathon; and Steve, who will tell you the story of how a conversation made such a big difference to their mental health. 

Jon and Steve … thank you.

Prince Harry

Thank you, Jon and Steve, for sharing your conversation and the impact that it's had on your lives; and thank you Jon for running for Heads Together. I'm reliably informed that you'll run it in under four hours! Good luck with your training!

Over 500 people will be running for Heads Together, leading from the front (well perhaps not right at the front!), raising funds for the vital services provided by our Charity Partners. These runners will also be leading by example by starting conversations on mental health with their families, friends and colleagues.

It has been unbelievably encouraging to see that attitudes towards mental health across the country are beginning to change. In the past, the phrase 'mental health' would be translated to mental illness. But thankfully that is changing! As a result of family, school or work pressures, everyone's lives are lived at a frightening pace and these stresses can often seem overwhelming.

Some will ignore the signs of stress, others will insist they're ok after losing a loved one. Some will be afraid to ask for help, others won't have anyone to turn to.

One thing is certain, we are all wired differently. We all have mental health; and we'll say it again and again and again, if you want to be fit, healthy and set yourself up for success then your mental fitness is absolutely as important as your physical fitness. Everyone would get help for a broken leg, so why not seek help for an issue that could hamper you and others around you.

The truth is we can all help each other. You don't need any qualifications to help your mate out, simply to listen to what they have to say.

At the heart of this campaign is our hope that no-one should be afraid to ask for help, and no-one should worry about knowing how to help. That initial conversation could be the cure, before it has a chance to manifest itself.

The BBC have announced today that they are running a season on mental health to coincide with the Marathon, which is fantastic news. But every single one of you in this room can help too.

You are all role models and highly respected people in your industries - the way you talk about mental health will have a profound effect on millions of people, whether you're speaking from personal experience or encouraging those around you to do the same. 

So please could I encourage you all to have a conversation with the Heads Together team, who are here today, and share your ideas. 

We need as many people as possible – famous or not – who can help showcase what it's like to have a conversation with a friend, family or stranger. All your ideas are welcome. 

I would now like to introduce Rio Ferdinand – a sporting legend but perhaps, just as importantly, someone who is leading the way in talking openly about mental health. 

I first met Rio last summer when he joined our Heads Together BBQ and I talked with him, his dad and friend Ben about how the support we give each other can help us through the darkest of times and come out a stronger person.