The Duchess of Cambridge has today attended a symposium at the Royal Society of Medicine, championing early intervention into the lives of children, to prevent later mental health problems. Kate was praised for her work in the arena of mental health by a leading mental health charity executive, and CEO of her patronage the Anna Freud Centre, Peter Fonagy.
Organised by The Royal Foundation, the symposium was attended by academics, researchers, practitioners, educators and charities including, Simon Wessely, professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London; Alain Gregoire, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Southampton; Professor Jane Barlow, Professor of Evidence-Based Intervention and Policy Evaluation in the Department of Public Health, and a Professorial Fellow of St Hilda’s College Oxford; Anna Freud CEO of The National Centre for Children and Families; Peter Fonagy, Professor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Developmental Science and head of the department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London.
The symposium gathered to discuss perinatal, maternal and infant mental health, parenting support and advice, and resources for schools and educators. Simon Wessely also attended the Veteran’s Mental Health Conference with Prince Harry last week.
The Duchess of Cambridge is a strong advocate on the issue of providing a solid social and emotional platform for youngsters at the start of their lives; this was triggered from her interest in issues like addiction, the effects of family breakdown, and her visits to charities and support organisations.
Catherine has been exploring these issues on an individual basis through a number of engagements and roundtable discussions in recent months, such as seeing the work of midwives plus a roundtable discussion about women’s health at St Guy’s and Thomas’s.
Today’s engagement came after Prince William’s revelation to Ringo Starr yesterday that their third child is due “any minute now”; we were told the Duchess’ due date was April.
During the symposium Professor Neil Humphrey from Manchester University told guests that 50% of lifetime mental health issues begin before the age of 14 and that children from deprived areas are four and a half more times likely to develop mental health issues.
Kate, 35, gave a speech in which she said: “We are here today because we all believe that every child deserves the best possible start in life. I have therefore entrusted The Royal Foundation…to gather a group of experts to develop the thinking in this critical area.”
In her speech today, The Duchess said “I really feel so passionately about the importance of early intervention… providing children in their earliest years with social and emotional security builds strong foundations which last a lifetime” pic.twitter.com/1HPFSieFHx
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 21, 2018
The future Queen continued: “Providing children in their earliest years with social and emotional security builds strong foundations which lasts a lifetime. I really do feel passionately about the importance of early intervention and that by working on new approaches together we can make a real difference for generations to come.”
Her speech also said she believed it was important to prepare future mothers and fathers for parenthood, to enable them to cope with the “mental and emotional needs” of their children.
She said: “We need mental health support in primary schools before the biological changes and academic pressures of adolescence kick in.
“We also need a focus on parenting and family support, so that parents feel able to get their children ‘school ready’, and are confident that they themselves can cope with the mental and emotional needs of their own children,” said The Duchess of Cambridge.
“We need to highlight how important it is to support mothers too, potentially even before they give birth. They need to be aware how vulnerable they might be and, critically, know where they can find help for themselves, as well as for their babies and toddlers.”
Professor Peter Fonagy, chief executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, of which Catherine is patron, described the Duchess as the person “who has done more to turn the tide of stigma around mental health more than any other single individual that I could name.”
He had seen her visiting providers, “energising, enthusing, deepening the commitment of front-line workers in an invaluable way.”
The Royal Foundation was formed recently by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to create lasting change in targeted areas and geographies, based on need and on the interests of the three Royals; Meghan will join as a co-patron after her wedding.