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Posted on 10/10/2015 by Paul Farmer |

Mind's CEO, Paul Farmer, blogs on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit for World Mental Heath Day.

It’s been a big day for Mind. World Mental Health Day is always exciting but for me this will go down as one of the best, because today we welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to one of our projects aimed at improving the mental health of young people.

The project is truly inspiring. Mindkit is a programme designed to help young people understand their own mental health and to give them the skills to cope with life’s challenges. The project, funded by the Department of Health Volunteering Fund, involves training up 18-30 year-olds who have experienced mental health problems to go into the college and talk to young people. 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem, around three children in every classroom.

Five of our local Minds have come together to deliver the programme and today’s visit was at Harrow College, where volunteers trained up by Mind in Harrow have been delivering sessions to students to help them improve their mental wellbeing.

The Duke and Duchess met with several of the volunteers and students involved and then saw a Mindkit session in action. I was struck by their understanding and interest in hearing from the young people, who had been in a dark place but now feel able to help others.

Our royal visitors also met some of our fantastic Time to Change young champions, including Vithuja who gave an amazing speech about her mental health problems, from when she was first diagnosed with depression aged just 12. She spoke very movingly about the huge challenges that young people with mental health problems face, not least the reaction from her peers, which at times was hostile. The Duke and Duchess were clearly moved by her speech, and recognised the impact that stigma can have.

Sadly we know that Vithuja is not alone – 90 per cent of young people with mental health problems will experience stigma and discrimination, which stops them seeking help, living normal lives and, sometimes, makes them give up on their hopes and dreams. That’s why Time to Change is so important and why this week we have launched the #smallthings campaign.

The campaign aims to highlight the small things we can all do to help someone close to us who might be experiencing mental health problems. We know that many people struggle to broach the subject if they are worried about someone, or worry they will make things worse. Just asking someone how they’re doing or inviting them round for a cup of tea can help to let people know that you’re thinking about them and make a big difference to how they’re feeling. We are inviting people to look at our tips and share your own on the Time to Change website – so do have a look!

Every World Mental Health Day we have the opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. Today feels like a really key moment in raising the profile of mental health and we are enormously grateful to the Duke and Duchess for their support. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in the next year, and it affects every family, every school and college, and every workplace. This morning’s visit marks a coming of age for mental health – it is coming out of the shadows and now beginning to receive the attention it truly deserves.

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Paul Farmer

CEO of Mind.

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