Heads Together | Mental Health panel at The Royal Foundation Forum

Heads Together | Mental Health panel at The Royal Foundation Forum


It’s a real honour to be chairing this panel today with these five people that I’ve had the privilege to get to know over the last year We have Rhian Burke who the Duke of Cambridge was mentioning earlier She captured all of our hearts in the ‘Mind Over Marathon’ documentary and ran the London Marathon Sean Fletcher who you will all know from ‘Countryfile’ and ‘Good Morning Britain’ who also ran the Marathon to raise awareness of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Karl Hinett. Karl, you’ve run how many marathons now? 154 Karl was really terribly injured in Iraq and used marathons as a way to recover which is interesting! And then we have Victoria Hornby who is CEO of Mental Health Innovations And last but not least we have Simon Gunning who is CEO of CALM Before we get started I want to just go slightly off script Not too off script, don’t worry I just want to say you guys (laughter) I remember going to the launch of Heads Together back in May 2016 I was quite ill when I went and it took my breath away It took my breath away to see three people of such influence talking about a subject like mental health and just thinking how different things are going to be for my daughter’s generation and what you did was extraordinary You took your voices and you allowed people that had voices but didn’t feel they had the power to use them, to use them Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions and I just wanted to say a massive ‘Thank You’ to you (applause) I’m going to start with Rhian You are such an incredible woman – it gives me tears! Can you tell us your story please? Many of you know the story but back in 2012 my one-year-old son, George, died very suddenly and as a family we received no support whatsoever Five days later, my husband, Paul, the most amazing father the most amazing husband, took his own life traumatised by the loss of our son leaving myself with my two children, Holly and Isaac who were three and two at the time and I suppose my passion for mental health started then obviously to understand what was going through Paul’s mind I had no idea. He never spoke to me about it Did he know? I suppose I will never know But also the effect that the sudden bereavement had on myself and my children I think crying and missing my boys was probably the easy part Nobody came into our lives to offer me any sort of support Nobody offered me an idea of how my mental health generally would be affected The flashbacks, PTSD, anxiety, not wanting to leave the house, the anger So I suppose that is where the passion for mental health has come from and getting involved in the marathon last year quite literally changed my life It really did Because I remember seeing you, way in front of me I wasn’t that far in front! But I remember everyone was stopping you because the first documentary had gone out that week and there was just this incredible atmosphere What was it like to go from this awful, tragic, situation but you took this negative and turned it into such a huge positive but was it also quite overwhelming? Oh it was totally overwhelming. I suffered with anxiety and I was going everywhere and people were mobbing us on the streets It was quite strange but incredible because people were coming and saying just ‘Thank You’ for sharing our stories myself and the other people on the programme who remain very good friends but it helped me because to be honest for the last five, six years the anniversary being this week, actually I’d spoken about missing them and the way my life had changed but I’d never told anybody until that programme, even my parents how I was struggling with how much I hated myself and the self-worth I had and everything like that So actually it helped me a lot knowing I’d helped myself but I’d also helped, I hope, other people to have that conversation about their mental health And you’ve just walked seven miles this week? Yeah, myself and my children. George would have been seven last week so we walked seven miles The children raised over a thousand pounds for their little brother Hundreds of people came and joined us just to remember them but also to get out there and appreciate life because it is tough at times but you must never give up hope and you’ve just got to keep going and that was totally what the marathon was about That’s what it’s about Sean, tell us your story. I have a feeling, well I’ll let you tell it There was someone in this room whom you told about your son’s illness for the first time Yeah I warn you that I get quite emotional. I’ve heard your story, Rhian, before and I get quite emotional hearing that and I probably will when I tell the story of my son He has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which most people just assume is washing hands perhaps excessively rubbing the skin off your hands keeping things in order and it is that for some people but it is so much more as Bryony will tell you and it was for my son My son is 14 now and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be debilitating in the same way that an extreme physical disability can be so he started to suffer from anxiety when he was at primary school and then he gets bombarded with quite awful thoughts and without going into OCD too much, what you have to do is perform compulsions to show that you don’t agree with the thoughts Think of your worst nightmare, 24/7, when you are asleep, in your nightmares when you are sleeping but also in the day and actually it becomes so debilitating you can’t leave the house and so my son didn’t go to school for a year And the incident you are talking about was that actually one thing I’ve noticed is that There is a real parental stigma when your child has a mental health illness because you are worried that your child will be labelled really worried that my son would be labelled in the football team He wasn’t playing very well and you could see the OCD was affecting him but I just wanted him to continue because he’d get over it and I was really scared that the coach would drop him and then they’d label him as the guy who’s got a bit of an odd condition We were worried as parents. We were desperately worried that we’d be judged that we’d be judged for both working, perhaps pushing him too much perhaps even giving him faulty genes to give him this OCD So I was doing ‘Good Morning Britain’, an early breakfast show I was rushing home to try and look after him and I was hoping to home school him but I couldn’t get him out of bed I mean it’s just been a very, very difficult year and it just dragged our whole family down So this parental stigma prevented me, really, from saying it to anyone and then, January last year, at the Heads Together launch I was just told, a bit like today, ‘Oh there’s this launch thing Come along to it and you can chat to some people’ And Royals turn up! I was thinking ‘Oh my God this is massive!’ But anyway, I had no idea I would be talking to anyone important I was chatting to Sian Williams from Channel 5 News, who I know and in television, if anyone of you who work in television will know You go to these events and people talk to you and then they look over your shoulder as if to say ‘There’s someone more important over there’ probably not just television and she was doing that I was thinking ‘Sian I know you, you’re being really rude’ ‘looking at the person behind me’ Well of course it turned out to be Prince William standing right behind me so I looked round and you said ‘Hello Sean. How are you?’ I thought ‘He knows my name!’ I haven’t really prepped what I am going to say or anything like that and he said ‘Why are you running the London Marathon?’ I guess because I hadn’t prepared it, my wife and I hadn’t told anyone apart from very close family members I said ‘My son’s got OCD’ and it was a game changer for me And it was a real game changer for my family that I had just blurted out to someone who I’d never met but I knew of, of course that my son had OCD and it just turned the tables because it just felt immediately like a weight had been lifted off our shoulders and I think that is one thing that people don’t focus on much is that parents are struggling with their children who have mental health issues and they keep it to themselves and they struggle alone and so since then a lot of parents have been in touch with me and I’ve set up a few WhatsApp groups where we’ve all been sharing stories together A problem shared is a problem halved and I would thank you for that Prince William I would never have done it unless I was forced to and as a presenter I tend to prep things a lot and I was completely caught unawares and that for me in our mental health journey with our son was a complete game changer And doing the marathon and being involved in Heads Together For Reuben what was that like because he’s getting much better isn’t he? Of course, Bryony knows Reuben because I’ve known Bryony before and I actually bumped into Bryony on a television set and she was talking about OCD and this was when Reuben just started to show the signs of OCD I wasn’t interviewing her but I ran after her afterwards and hugged her and said ‘I think my son’s got OCD as well’ and she gave me an even bigger hug and if you’ve ever met Bryony you’ll know it’s a lovely hug. She gave me a big old hug And said ‘Don’t worry, you can get through this’ Now from when he was diagnosed with OCD we had to wait 18 months for the right level of care and right level of treatment and the thing with OCD is that it is completely treatable there are lots of people out there with it in varying degrees and it is affecting them in different ways and it’s actually, with the right level of treatment, you can get over it you can deal with it like many of the mental health issues that we are talking about today but it is just getting that level of treatment and there was a stage where during this 18 months we were referred to the Maudsley Hospital there’s the National OCD Centre there Our family, we were on our knees. We weren’t sleeping Our son was dragging our family into all sorts of arguments The OCD was It was killing us. It was absolutely destroying us We were crying all the time It’s really unpleasant seeing a young boy, your young boy struggling like that And so we went to the Maudlsey Hospital and they said ‘We get it’ ‘We can treat it. We’ve seen this a lot and it will be fine’ which was the best news we’d heard in over a year and then we heard the worst news which was ‘There’s a six month waiting list’ and I had no idea how we were going to get through that that six months with no support at all imagine if he had a broken leg and you had to wait 18 months? that would just be unacceptable wouldn’t it? So he actually went into hospital because it got so bad He was in hospital for six months and now we are having the right treatment And your question was – I went off on a tangent – your question was About the London Marathon which I had done before It is one of the most incredible experiences ever, anyway But the Heads Together marathon last year I mean I can’t really put it into words As I was saying with parents, you bring them together and they talk And they share experiences and this was just a mass of that People coming together and making the phrase ‘mental health’ Really normal and easy to talk about Karl how was it for you because it was just another day for you Doing the London Marathon presumably because you also did Boston Just quickly to talk through, you were very badly injured in Iraq You tell us your story Back in 2005 I was 18 years old when I was unfortunately injured Luckily I had the best care that I could ever ask for but at the time, because it was a physical injury I never asked about mental health care because it didn’t cross my mind It wasn’t even an afterthought because I was so consumed on physical injury and so I was given the best care and the greatest detailed advice on how best to recover and then as time went on Mental health was left in the background but that’s why I took up running to help act as a therapy to help focus So when it came to running the Mental Health Marathon in London last year although having already run quite a few marathons in the past to be able to be part of something where there was so much unity against a common goal, I was extremely honoured to be able to be part of that movement which has personally affected myself my close family, and to see that other people were going through similar situations and then being able to just open up and talk to complete strangers it was such an important day for myself and for the runners and everyone involved And you were guiding a blind US veteran around so you weren’t just doing the marathon That was a part of what our little challenge was because I was guiding an American veteran, Ivan who again had been in an incident where he had lost his sight completely so we were over in Boston to run the week before London to complete the Boston Marathon because the American friends of the Royal Foundation are very supportive of the Royal Foundation so we were doing work over there to combat similar situations to what we are going through to provide help over in America and he came over to run the London Marathon Us doing that as two nations was a great example, a great opportunity to show our friendship and our support of each other and to be able to run with Ivan I have to be quite honest even though he is completely blind it was almost like he was leading me He’s such an amazing, strong and confident runner that it was just amazing to be a part of it It did make the whole week even more special Wow. Victoria, you’ve been with Heads Together from the very beginning You were the Royal Foundation’s Director of Programmes Can you talk us through to see it go from an idea on the back of a fag packet through to this Yes, so after Prince Harry gave us this fag packet we had to think through what could we do and I think what we really wanted to do most of all was to change the language of mental health that it is hard to change the conversation if you don’t change the language and the language of mental health at the time was and has been for many years really a language of failure You can’t cope, you can’t manage, you can’t do things and it put such a terrible burden on people creates that stigma both within yourself but also elsewhere and we really wanted to change that language about mental health to make it a language much more positive, much more accepting but also a language that brought people in as opposed to push them away and so I think that is probably where we would say we’ve had such a degree of success already There is obviously much, much more to do but that language is changing and I think people now see challenges around mental health as just part of everyday life It is inevitable if you think about life from 0-50 and all the challenges that people will inevitably go through in that time moving from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood parenthood – all of those challenges it is inevitable that we will need some help and that is where I think we have had the most impact It is on changing that language Are you able to tell us about anything that you are working on at the moment? So as well as the campaign and changing the language we wanted to make help more available where people are and that’s workplaces and schools and the military but people are increasingly online and that’s where they’re looking for their support and we need to significantly increase the quality and the quantity of support that is available for people online and we need to make that instant We need to make it 27/7 People don’t have their mental health crises during working hours and we need to make it again something where the language is all about a positive reaching out for support and that there is someone at the other end when you reach out for support There will always be someone there Simon working for CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably What for you now having seen the huge change in the last year What for you now are the real challenges? Continuing it, certainly. Heads Together brought so many things to all of the partners and I hopefully I speak for them who are all here that it brought along a massive amount of legitimisation to the subject we are trying to tackle but a key part of it was that we were also encouraged especially CALM as a somewhat non-traditional and irreverent mental health charity we were encouraged very much by the Principals to retain that voice and to be able to focus on the key parts of society that need our help so amongst the partners we were very much focused on different areas It makes me think a little bit of the Winter Olympics and with the utmost respect to curling and those people who go ‘GRRRRRR!’ as the stone moves along the ice we spent all of our money on a helpline that helps people at the point of crisis where they really need that help and that is indeed a symptom to get upstream and to be able to campaign into those specific areas that the partners have really needed those people with the brushes to smooth the ice and to get us in and the instant legitimisation that we received to go into that conversation and to start talking about how that isn’t a panacea Opening up and talking doesn’t solve everything but whilst in our case the thing that we focused on which is male mental health and suicide amongst men as the Duke put it at the start of the campaign it remains a poisonous stain on our society that it’s the single largest killer of men that legitimisation for the conversation gives us such a step forward gives us such an ability to do good and to force or encourage societal change at its cause Our challenge, sorry Bryony to answer your question is to maintain that and we are very fortunate that for example the Duke backed our ‘Best Man’ project recently where we tried to get men talking to each other on a regular basis rather than just once in their entire lifetime about how they are feeling we did of course revert to talking about football but nothing wrong with that we continue to try to do the same sort of work as a group of partners so we meet once every six weeks or so and share notes If we can take that momentum, we can turn it into long term actionable good then we’ve received the most incredible boost that we can ever imagine It has just been even just personally the last year has been incredible I’m six months sober now which is something I wouldn’t have discovered If I hadn’t met loads of people in the mental health world And got involved in Heads Together in such a way So I think I want to say ‘Thank You’ to all of you You’re amazing and another ‘Thank You’ to you guys Thank you Principals and the newest Principal to be We’re looking forward to working with you

5 thoughts on “Heads Together | Mental Health panel at The Royal Foundation Forum

  1. Hello, thank you for you email and I would like to joint some of your acitivities please, I live closed to Paddington Reck and I would love to set up a Head Start Meditations to my local community a technic excircise from my Physio theraphy and I would love to share it, yes I had a problems for a slip disk and I maitaned those excircise plus diet. Thank Lords I survived for all these years.

  2. Tina Daheley asked Meghan to talk about laying foundation of her future work for Royal Foundation. Answer from Meghan is she can not, don't know but we see Meghan was rushing, rambling and boosting about Women voice & meeting important people because she was difficult to admit she has no knowledge of tackling mental health problem.

  3. ok – i was a registered mental health nurse NHS – my back went then i was diagnosed with a very rare disease. I have no job. Cannot work. Worked from age 15 until age 32. Every shift you would expect to be punched, slapped, scratched, spat on, – not the patients faults – part of their mental health disease. It works like this – HEADS TOGETHER – I cannot see how on this earth until the very basics are provided – mental health workers paid decently and also counselling provided – mental health nurses see situations that no-one unless they work in that field can begin to understand. I have no idea whatsoever that until the basics – ie, benefits, social care, NHS provision are provided et al, then sitting in a room talking about people stories really does sweet nothing. And, this is not about not liking William, Katherine or Harry – i like them simply because they appear to be decent and their mum was fantastic – but you are not challenging the deep rooted issues which is provision of care and services – Nurses get NO full on hands on care like the military. Enough with this twaddle. The presenter from the BBC with the child that OCD – he earns enough money to have had his son seen privately – i would be interested to see if he did. Looking on line – good grief they need to be able to see a person in person – on line is dangerous, you cant assess a person that way.

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