HRH Prince William chats to schoolchildren about their experience of the Heads Up programme and their understanding of mental health.

Edge Hill University staff joined partners Everton in the Community to welcome The Duke of Cambridge to Liverpool as he visited one of the charity’s mental health campaigns.

His Royal Highness Prince William spent an afternoon at The People’s Hub to find out more about the Heads Up campaign, which is run by the football club’s official charity Everton in the Community (EitC), and how it uses its influence to support fans and address key social issues affecting the local community.

He also visited three EitC projects which each provide crucial mental health support to different sectors of society – Stand Together, a programme which tackles social isolation among those aged 70+ living in Merseyside; Everton Veterans Hub, a project which uses sport to engage and support ex-service personnel; and Tackling the Blues, a sport and education-based programme delivered by Edge hill University, targeting children and young people experiencing mental health challenges.

Professor Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University, said: “It was a privilege and a pleasure to be present at The People’s Hub today for the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to our longstanding partner, Everton in the Community. Our commitment to promoting good mental health, supporting those with mental illness and improving mental health literacy through sport lies also at the heart of the Duke’s Heads Up Campaign.

“We were delighted to provide His Royal Highness with an insight into Tackling the Blues and how our research-informed activities have helped to shape the delivery of mental health work in our partner schools and how this has benefited their pupils, staff and wider communities.”

HRH Prince William and Everton first team player Jordan Pickford chatted to schoolchildren on a visit to the Heads Up mental health project run in partnership with Edge Hill University.

The Duke of Cambridge received a civic reception from the Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, Mark Blundell DL; the High Sheriff of Merseyside David Steer QC DL and the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Anna Rothery, before being introduced to EitC Chief Executive Officer Richard Kenyon who served as the host to His Royal Highness during his time with the charity.

HRH Prince William was then given an insight into Everton in the Community’s ground-breaking and award-winning work in the field of mental health over the last 12 years as well as an update on the charity’s plans for The People’s Place, a purpose built mental health facility in the shadows of Goodison Park, by Everton Football Club Chief Executive Officer Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale MBE and Everton in the Community Director of Health and Sport Michael Salla.

His Royal Highness then had the opportunity to witness some of EitC’s mental health programmes in action and meet the participants who benefit from these programmes as well as the staff behind them. He was joined in the Tackling the Blues session by Everton first team stars Jordan Pickford and Theo Walcott, Edge Hill University’s Professor Andy Smith, and observed children from Springwell Park Community Primary School taking part in a game of emoji bingo where they were asked to describe recent emotions using emojis to encourage conversations around feelings and emotions.

Everton in the Community Chief Executive Richard Kenyon said: “It has been a great honour to welcome The Duke of Cambridge to Liverpool 4 and to provide him with the opportunity to visit some of our mental health programmes and meet with the participants who benefit from them who were so enthusiastic to tell him about the positive difference we have helped make to their lives.

“We have been delivering mental health provision for our local community for more than 10 years and have a long-standing commitment to supporting positive mental health and wellbeing, together with partners such as Edge Hill University, and are continually evolving our programmes to ensure we are providing the support that’s needed right across our society.  It gives us a great deal of pride that our work has attracted the attention of His Royal Highness and it is real testament to the unwavering dedication, hard work and commitment of our staff, volunteers and participants.”

The Duke then sat down with the children and spoke with them about their enjoyment of the programme and their understanding of mental health, and encouraged the importance of communication and opening up to friends and family. 

Funded by the Premier League and delivered collaboratively with Edge Hill University, Tackling the Blues uses tools such as emoji bingo, peer mentoring and physical activity to help increase self -esteem and reduce anxiety in children while helping them build positive relationships with their peers and external agencies.

His Royal Highness was then introduced to Everton first team stars Seamus Coleman, Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin by England number one goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Theo Walcott, and spoke with the five footballers at length about the Heads Up campaign and the importance of encouraging more people – particularly men – to feel comfortable talking about their mental health, and feel able to support friends or family through difficult times.

After an in-depth discussion about the roles that footballers can play in tackling the stigma around mental health, Club captain Seamus Coleman introduced The Duke to participants from Everton Veterans Hub as they joined them for a relaxed round-table chat about the programme, the impact it has had on their lives and their lives in the forces.

Launched in 2015, Everton Veterans Hub supports ex-service personnel with the transition from military life to civilian life and the interlinked problems that often arise. The programme offers engagement tools, support mechanisms and evidence-based behavioural change methods to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

For the final part of his visit with Everton in the Community, His Royal Highness met with participants from the charity’s Stand Together programme to take part in a football reminiscence session and the memories that old memorabilia can evoke. The Duke was joined in the session by first team duo Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin as well as Everton Football Club Players’ Life President Graeme Sharp as they joined the elderly participants in sharing memories of old football boots and programmes.

Also funded by the Premier League, Stand Together aims to tackle social isolation among the elder members of community and offers its participants bespoke activities such as sessions on the history of city, interactive music and dance performance, home safety advice and most importantly, the opportunity to interact with like-minded people and make new friends.

Heads Up is a season-long campaign spearheaded by The Duke of Cambridge which uses the influence and popularity of football to show the nation that mental health is just as important as physical health. It supports the important work which is already taking place across the UK to end the stigma surrounding mental health, and strives to raise awareness, spark conversation and signpost to support.

Everton Chief Executive, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale said: “It was an immense privilege to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge to Everton. I was delighted to show him the innovative, life-changing and often life-saving work Everton in the Community has been delivering in the field of mental health for over ten years.

“Everton in the Community staff work tirelessly and go above and beyond to tackle the stigmas associated with mental health issues to help people in our community every day.

“I was incredibly proud to stand alongside the Everton in the Community Trustees, staff and participants to showcase the wonderful and ground-breaking work they undertake and share best practice in supporting people with mental health problems with His Royal Highness, including our plans for a new purpose-built, drop-in mental health facility, to be called The People’s Place, to further assist those living with mental health issues in North Liverpool.”

Everton goalkeeper and England international Jordan Pickford added: “As footballers we have a responsibility to do what we can to help tackle the stigma around mental health and Heads Up is a fantastic campaign to encourage football fans – especially men – to open up the conversation and let them know that it’s not ok to be ok. Myself and my teammates are strong supporters of Everton in the Community’s fantastic work across Liverpool and we love to get involved at any given opportunity – for the charity to have the chance to show His Royal Highness exactly what it does to make a difference to the lives of others is a great honour and everyone involved should be very proud.”

In February, football is coming together to kick off the biggest ever conversation around mental health, in support of the Heads Up campaign.

The Heads Up Weekends, which are taking place on the 8-9 and 15-16 February, will see every football team from across the Premier League, English Football League, The Barclays Women’s Super League and The FA Women’s Championship dedicate their matches to Heads Up. The weekends will highlight the power of talking as a way to support one another and normalise what can often be thought of as a difficult subject, with activity planned at fixtures across the men’s and women’s football calendar.

For more information on Heads Up visit https://www.headstogether.org.uk/heads-up/

For more information on Everton in the Community visit www.evertonfc.com/community