Prince William narrates 60-second film about mental health - GulfToday

Prince William narrates 60-second film about mental health


Prince William. File

Shappi Khorsandi, The Independent

I like Prince William. I don’t know him, of course, but as people born with unimaginable privilege go, I think he’s alright. As part of the Heads Up campaign he and his wife set up in 2016, the prince has narrated a 60-second film about mental health, encouraging people to talk more about how they are feeling, to be played before football matches.

My knowledge of football is limited. I have only ever been to two professional matches and I just stood there marvelling at how big the pitches were (I’m looking forward to becoming a sports commentator in my retirement). I do know for a fact though that a vast number of people who write vile messages on people’s timelines have their team’s colours as their avatar, and that their online identity is massively tied up with football. Now I’m not saying that all football fans are online trolls. What I’m saying is that for many people, football acts as a buffer between themselves and whatever issues they cannot deal with; a safe haven for souls afraid to show vulnerability. Just wearing your team’s kit can relieve you of having to display a little of who you are by the clothes you wear.

Again, I don’t think this of all football fans. I understand it’s a beautiful game and envy those able to get wrapped up in its drama. Yet what’s undeniable is that it also attracts a certain type of people. Let’s not be mealy mouthed about this: men unable to express their feelings outside of the theatre of a football game.

I imagine many will make fun of the prince’s efforts to get men like these to share their feelings. But as a step towards normalising conversations about your mental state, it can only be a good thing.

In my generation, “mental” was used only as a slur and could mean anything from “a bit spontaneous” to full-on “cast of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. Nowadays people now talk about “anxiety” but in my generation, it was “you’re being paranoid, you nutter”.

When I was 18, I was in a pub with a friend and a bunch of other people I’d just met. I sat there, unable to breathe or speak, big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. When, to my horror, someone noticed and asked what was wrong, I couldn’t answer.

Even if I had been able to get the words out, even if my throat hadn’t felt like a huge hand was clamped around it, throttling me like a Warner Bros cartoon character, I couldn’t tell them, “well, although you seem like perfectly ordinary, nice people, I have no clue how to talk to you. You’re chatting with ease and that is something I find impossible. It’s all left me feeling like a fish some naughty child has plucked out of its bowl and left on the dining table to flap about as it slowly dies.”

If I had said that in the early Nineties, they’d have thought it was “mental”; which, of course, it was: I was a grown woman sitting in a pub crying because I didn’t know how to talk to anyone.

Mental health stuff wasn’t something anyone talked about. Back then, you were either “normal” or a goth. I didn’t see my sober state of mind as something I could alter. It became unbearable so I self-medicated with binge-drinking and massively disordered eating, things that are these days known as “self-harm” – which, by the by, is what I believe internet trolling to be. Relentlessly spouting hate online is a symptom of how you feel about yourself. No one who is at peace with themselves jumps online to belittle someone else.

I haven’t always found easy this cultural shift towards talking about how we are feeling. My generation just got on with it, dragged ourselves through the fog of mental disarray – but so many didn’t find a way out. Suicide remains a huge killer among young people. So however awkward some might find the heir to throne telling a stadium to talk more about their feelings, it might prove to some to be a life-saver.

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