As part of His Royal Highness’s campaign work around mental health, he visited YMCA to learn more about the vital support it provides to young people. The Duke met some of the residents of YMCA South Ealing; participants in YMCA’s Mental Health Champions programme; and young people involved in the #IAMWHOLE campaign, run by the NHS and YMCA. During the discussions, the Duke was particularly interested in how the peer-2-peer element of YMCA Mental Health Champions programme worked and the support provided in schools for key adults. As part of the visit he also met with parents and young children who attend the Y Active ballet class for children between four and six, that helps raise much-needed funds for the centre.
The Duke joined YMCA England & Wales Chief Executive Denise Hatton at a roundtable with organisations to discuss the current climate of support for those with mental health difficulties and the personal and social issues that are often the underlying cause. He said: “Every single one of us in here can suffer from mental health. There continues to be huge progress in smashing the stigma that surrounds mental health, but let’s keep normalizing the conversation. Let’s keep reminding each other that it’s okay to not be okay, and to listen to each other. After all, how we think determines how we act, how we feel and how we treat ourselves and those around us.”
YMCA South Ealing is part of YMCA St. Paul’s Group, which provides services across London and is one of the largest in Europe. The organization provides housing for 151 young people who are dealing with a range of problems such as homelessness, mental illness, recovering from substance misuse, or are fleeing domestic violence. Over 17,000 young people are aided by YMCA’s mental health support in England and Wales every year.
Sophia Zahra, 21, who met the Duke, was helped by YMCA as a 17-year-old carer and now works for YMCA Swansea’s Young Carer Project said: “Prince Harry brings much-needed attention to young people, especially men, and their mental health. It’s amazing for people who are struggling [with mental health] to see Prince Harry, who is so inspiring and has spoken about his own experiences.”