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Celebrities were reluctant to put their name to mental health charity, reveals Prince William

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Sarah Shaffi
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Just a few years ago celebrities didn’t want to be involved with a mental health charity.

It may seem like we’re better at talking about mental health now than we were in the past, but it’s not that long ago that the subject was still seen as taboo and one to avoid.

In fact, just three years ago celebrities approached by Prince William to back Heads Together, a mental health initiative he launched with Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, refused.

Speaking during a conversation at Davos with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, he said: “No-one was interested in being part of Heads Together, because it was about mental health.”

Prince Harry, the Duchess Of Cambridge and Prince William launched the Heads Together campaign in 2016. Image: Getty

He said that part of the stigma around mental health may have come because during the World Wars people were unwilling to talk about it because “no matter how much you would talk, you were never going to fix the issue”.

He continued: “A whole generation decided that this was the best way of dealing with it. They then, completely by accident, passed that on to the next generation.”

But, said Prince William, this was changing and people are now realising that we should talk about mental health.

Ardern, who has increased spending on mental health care during her time as Prime Minister, said: “One of the sad facts for New Zealand is that everyone knows someone who has taken their own life. We’re a small country, of less than 5 million people, but last year more than 600 people committed suicide.”

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Prince William said it was now much easier to get celebrities to supports Heads Together, and indeed in recent years we have seen more celebrities speaking up.

Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain has spoken candidly about her struggles with anxiety. Speaking to Stylist’s editor-in-chief, Lisa Smosarski, at Stylist Live, she said: “I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

“I think one of the hardest things as a grownup is to admit that you’re not coping and you’re not well. When I got married I didn’t tell my husband about my panic disorder.

“When you carry something like that around with you, just admitting it means you’re saying you’re not perfect – and we all want to seem like we have everything together on the outside.”

Nadiya Hussain on anxiety - Stylist cover star
Nadiya Hussain

Late last year she also posted a video of herself in the aftermath of a panic attack, saying she did so because she wanted to show fellow sufferers they are not alone.

Ariane Grande called out people who said she was exploiting the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller by saying the people needed to be more “compassionate and gentle”.

And Sheridan Smith has opened up about her battle with panic attacks, which began when she was starring in Legally Blonde in the West End. She has described the attacks in detail, and said that while seeking treatment she received a number of diagnoses.

It’s clear that the discussion around mental health has changed in the three years since Prince William struggled to get celebrities on board for Heads Together, and that by speaking up, we can all help fight back against the stigma around mental health.

Images: Getty

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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