Kate Middleton made quite the impression on students and teachers on Tuesday, January 22 when she visited Roe Green Junior School in London to speak out about the importance of supporting children's mental health and well-being. The visit was also linked to the launch of a new website funded by the Royal Foundation called Mentally Healthy Schools, which aims to "give teachers and school staff the clarity and practical resources they need in order to support pupils." The site will feature teaching resources, risks and protective factors, mental health needs, and whole school approach for school leaders.
The cause is one that the Duchess has supported alongside Prince William and Prince Harry. The royal trio formed the Heads Together campaign, in an effort to break the stigma around mental health concerns. This is particularly crucial for young people, as the Heads Together site points out: "Mental health problems in young people can isolate, disrupt and frighten them, resulting in lower educational attainment, and have a lasting impact on a person’s life. More than half of all mental health problems in adult life (not including dementia) start by the age of 14."
During her time at the school, Kate spoke with educators and sat down with students in a classroom, chatting with them about resilience. The princess, who is expecting her third child in April, also brought up her two eldest L.O.s, telling one little girl, "Charlotte is only two and a half, she’s still very little. ... George is four and a half… He is at school today.”
The Duchess also gave a speech in support of the new website launch, noting, "We know that mental health is an issue for us all – children and parents, young and old, men and women – of all backgrounds and of all circumstances. What we have seen first-hand is that the simple act of having a conversation about mental health – that initial breaking of the silence – can make a real difference. But, as you here today know: starting a conversation is just that – it’s a start. I see time and time again that there is so much to be gained from talking of mental health and taking the mental health of our children as seriously as we do their physical health. When we intervene early in life, we help avoid problems that are much more challenging to address in adulthood.”
Kate also opened up about the link between facing the challenges of motherhood and mental health stigma. She shared that challenges she's faced since welcoming George and Charlotte have led her to feel, at times, a "lack of confidence” and “feelings of ignorance.” “Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said. “However, at times it has also been a huge challenge. Even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not. Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost.”
It's not all that often that we hear the Duchess speak of her experience -- including the difficult moments -- of motherhood. It's heartening to hear that the royal has dealt with the highs and lows so many parents feel every day. And it's truly admirable to see how she's working on behalf of so many parents' and their children's mental wellness. No doubt this program and the Duchess' moving words will have a positive, resonating effect for many schools and their students.