During a panel on the subject at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, William shared that working with veterans, disadvantaged children and other groups of people led him to realize that many problems fell under the umbrella of mental well-being.
Together with his brother and wife, he launched the Heads Together initiative to focus on mental health three years ago – but even the royal trio had trouble getting famous faces to join their cause.
“What was interesting when we set up the campaign, not one celebrity wanted to join us,” William, 36, said. “Not one person wanted to be involved in the mental health campaign Heads Together.
The royal dad of three added that they went out to “a lot of people” and “nobody” was interested.
Heads Together still moved forward, and Prince William has noticed that many more people are willing to speak about the issues now.
“That was three years ago, and that was a big deal,” he shared. “Obviously, once we started getting the ball rolling and once we started showing people a lot more of what we’re going to do, people realized that Catherine, Harry and I put our necks on the line here. That actually maybe it was okay, we could join. Then some very brave people came forward from celebrities and from normal people who decided this was really important and they bravely took on the task of speaking about mental health.”
William let out a small laugh when the moderator asked if anyone who was initially hesitant to join had changed their minds.
He answered, “It’s now become a lot easier to talk about, which is fantastic news. And that was the whole point of the campaign – to allow people to feel the freedom and the space to talk about it and not feel there was a stigma.”
In April 2017, William and Lady Gaga had a memorable chat — thanks to FaceTime — about their mental health campaigns.
“We have to make the strongest, most relentless attempt we can to normalize mental health issues, so that people feel like they can come forward,” Lady Gaga told William after he suggested they meet up when she comes to the U.K.
William understands the hesitation, sharing that his work as an air ambulance pilot has left him with experiences he “still [finds] very difficult to talk about.”
The royal explained that many workers in the medical community are haunted by tragedies that they experience on a regular basis.
“I get very emotional about it because it relates very closely to my children and so it is very hard to talk about it,” he said.
In his case, William felt that “the most important thing was understanding and realizing it was there.”
“I think if I hadn’t been doing what I was doing, I might have gone into my shell a bit and gone, ‘I can deal with this myself.’ Then potentially, down the line, it manifests itself in a much worse situation,” he said
William added, “I know that if I hadn’t taken the action that I did then, I would have definitely gone down a slippery slope and I would have been dealing with mental illness on a different level.”