Prince William is taking his mental health campaign to the soccer field.
Promoting Heads Up — a new program to encourage more people, particularly men, to talk more about their mental health — William visited a soccer team in northwest London as the new season kicked into gear on Friday.
The dad of three, 37, was at Hendon Football Club to hear more about the club’s mental health initiatives, including an outreach program which it runs with the local council. The idea is to encourage people in the surrounding community who face mental health challenges to attend training sessions at the club.
The royal, who has made mental health and the prevention of male suicide a key part of his public work, spoke with some of the young people who have formed Hendon FC Mental Health team, which have specially-designed training sessions at the club.
William also spent time chatting with some of the club’s fans to hear how soccer and the sense of community engendered by the team as well as the sport has helped them in their recovery.
The Queen’s grandson also added that he was “fed up” with the “outrageous” racism recently faced by soccer players, citing abuse towards Tammy Abraham and Romelu Lukaku specifically.
“It’s quite hard,” Prince William said. “People are now talking a little bit about mental health issues, but I imagine talking about racism is still quite a difficult subject, especially when it’s happening in such a public fashion with Premier League matches or Champions League.”
Told it was an issue that had been talked about for “too long,” he agreed: “We’ve got to do something about it. I’m fed up with it. I’m so bored of it.”
“Heads Up is about mental health, but we are going to start doing stuff on racism as well because it is affecting mental health,” William added. “Not just the players but also fans.”
On Saturday, Hendon starts its journey in the Emirates FA Cup knock-out competition. When the FA Cup reaches its conclusion with the final at London’s Wembley Stadium in May, the Heads Up campaign will end.
The visit came as the Football Association — of which the prince is president — launched a guide for coaches and managers of soccer clubs to help the sport’s leaders identify signs of mental health difficulties in their players and colleagues and help set people on the path to recovering.
It was praised by Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the charity Mind, which worked closely with the FA on creating the 36-page guide.
“We hope that by adding this vital resource to the kit bag of football coaches and managers across the country we can ensure more footballers receive the mental health support they need, when they need it most,” he said.
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The engagement comes one day after Prince William proudly took his daughter Princess Charlotte to her first day of school at Thomas’s Battersea, where Prince George has been a student for two years, alongside wife Kate Middleton on Thursday.