Prince William plays mental health Jenga with footballers

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Prince William has used a game of mental health Jenga to encourage people to talk more and stop being worried about offending people – as he reveals his children can drive him insane but that he ‘loves them dearly’.  

The Duke of Cambridge, 37, a lifelong Aston Villa fan, joined footballers from Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Manchester United to take part in the game which featured questions on each block designed to stimulate conversation.

Drawing on their own experiences on and off the football pitch, the players shared personal anecdotes as they opened up about how they manage pressure, and discussed with The Duke the importance of talking and why mental health should no longer be a taboo subject.

Urging people to not be afraid of speaking out, William said: ‘I like for people to be able to share stuff that really matters, because that is what this is about. 

‘It’s not about making it into a big deal. We all have mental health. It’s about trying to understand somebody and understand what they’ve been through. 

‘Part of this is about being more open about how we feel and about being able to talk about those feelings. Not to shy away. 

I think we’re quite modest in this country. We don’t want to delve, we don’t want to offend anyone and we don’t really ask. We’ve got to be a bit more punchy.’

William was joined by Crystal Palace’s Andros Townsend, Watford FC’s Troy Deeney, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay, Wycombe Wanderers’ Adebayo Akinfenwa and former Arsenal women’s player Kelly Smith for the game of Jenga.

Video of the game as been released to mark the Heads Up Weekends, which will see all of football coming together over two weekends in a bid to kick off the biggest ever conversation around mental health.

The Duke divulged how his children can ‘drive him insane’ when asked what makes him most happy – but added that he ‘loves them dearly’. ‘You’re most happy when they’re all around, he said.

His comments came after he earlier this week revealed he reads to Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four, and Prince Louis, one, ‘all the time’ – and said a particular favourite is Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. 

The illustrated book tells the story of a witch who invites animals to travel with her on her broom. It was published in 2002 and adapted into a TV film in 2012. 

Also in his conversation with the footballers, William revealed that sport has always been a great passion of his and he loves being part of a team. 

‘Any physical, challenging situations like that I relish. Also, it’s where I’m part of a team. Because of a lot of what I do I’m on my own a lot of the time, I have to lead a room and lead an event. 

‘Whereas when you’re on a pitch it takes 11 people to win. So I feel very much as long as I’ve got to look after my corner of the pitch, that’s my little territory. I kind of guard it, look after it and effectively win it for the team. I like that comradery.’

In the end, it was William who pulled the block that sent the Jenga tower tumbling down as he and the footballers laughed at the games climactic ending.

At the same event, which took place in London yesterday, the Duke showed off his competitive streak during a game of table football.

He and teammates Andros Townsend, who plays for Crystal Palace, Adebayo Akinfenwa of Wycombe Wanderers and Fran Kirby of Chelsea enthusiastically celebrated a victory over their opponents, which included Villa player John McGinn. 

The duke and his table football team took it to the wire but scored the winner in the closing seconds, with the prince exclaiming: ‘What a game, what a game!’ as they shook their opponents’ hands. 

William, a longtime advocate of mental health awareness, launched Heads Up – which is a legacy of the Royals’ charity Heads Together – in May last year at Wembley. 

He said at the time: ‘We all need to take care of our everyday mental fitness, and provide support to one another when we face setbacks, so we can be match fit for whatever lies ahead.’ 

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.

For the Heads Up Weekends, every football team from across the Premier League, English Football League, National League, Barclays FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship and FA Women’s National League will dedicate their matches to Heads Up. 

Prince William has written a personal message in every match day programme, which reads: ‘Imagine if we talked about mental health as much as we talk about football… many of us won’t go a day without talking about it.

‘Whatever team we support, every single fan, player and manager has one thing in common – we all have mental health, in the same way that we all have physical health. And we will all face ups and downs in life which will affect it.

‘It’s time we start taking our mental fitness as seriously as we do our physical fitness, and that starts with talking.’  

This follows the Take A Minute campaign which saw 32 fixtures in the FA Cup Third Round delayed by a minute to promote better mental health, with a video clip narrated by the Duke and footballers Frank Lampard, Harry Maguire and Alex Scott.

While William staunchly supports Midlands-based side Villa, his son Prince George, six, is a fan of Chelsea FC.

Last week William visited Everton FC’s official charity Everton in the Community as part of the Heads Up campaign.

He was seen meeting player Jordan Pickford, before playing Emoji Bingo with some of children of Springwell Park Community Primary School. 

The prince has previously visited Hendon FC to learn about the club’s mental health outreach initiatives as part of the Heads Up mental health campaign.

During a conversation with coaches he highlighted how abuse might be a difficult issue for players to discuss and that racism needed to be tackled.

He said: ‘People are now talking a little bit about mental health issues but I imagine talking about racism is still quite a difficult subject, especially when it’s happening in such a public fashion with Premier League matches or Champions League.’

The duke added: ‘We’ve got to do something about it. I’m fed up with it. I’m so bored of it.’

Earlier this week, William and wife Kate visited Port Talbot Steelworks and took part in a discussion with Tata executives and union representatives before spending time with employees in the plant’s Hot Strip Mill and training academy. 

 

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