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Prince Harry makes a difference to lives in Leeds

PUBLISHED: 16:01 24 July 2017

Prince Harry address the Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds event in the city Photo Danny Lawson/PA

Prince Harry address the Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds event in the city Photo Danny Lawson/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Support from Prince Harry gives mental health campaigners in Leeds a chance to highlight pioneering work.

Prince Harry meets children at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, home of the Leeds Rhinos, for the Sky Try Rugby League Festival Photo Peter Byrne/PA Prince Harry meets children at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, home of the Leeds Rhinos, for the Sky Try Rugby League Festival Photo Peter Byrne/PA

Prince Harry arrived in Yorkshire on a two-day tour with a message urging people to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health. He had nothing but praise for the pioneering work going on in Leeds and urged campaigners to redouble their efforts.

He addressed campaigners and business people at the beginning of a discussion organised by Leeds Community Foundation to explore how they and the city could work together to protect the mental wellbeing of young people.

Prince Harry said: ‘This year there has been a lot spoken about mental health, not just by the Heads Together campaign (spearheaded by Prince Harry, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) but by many other organisations and initiatives focused on mental health.

‘The many voices that we’ve heard from across the country have helped to normalise the discussion about mental health, taking it away from a presumption of mental illness to a broad ranging and, most significantly, positive conversation.’

Employees at the Haribo sweet factory meet Prince Harry on the second day of his visit to Leeds Photo Paul Ellis/PA Employees at the Haribo sweet factory meet Prince Harry on the second day of his visit to Leeds Photo Paul Ellis/PA

‘Since the London Marathon (the springboard for Heads Together) two months ago, I have spoken to many people who now feel able to reach out to family, friends and colleagues and discuss what they have been feeling. But what has struck me most is the number of people I’ve met, who have direct experience of mental health challenges, either themselves or those close to them. So many of these stories could have been very different if awareness was better and help had been sought sooner.’

He went on to say: ‘I have been so impressed by the commitment of this city and the Leeds Community Foundation in focusing on mental health. You have been leading the way in bringing funding and expertise together in support of local community solutions. I cannot tell you how pleased William, Catherine and I are that the dial seems to have shifted and that there is now greater understanding, compassion and kindness for anyone who opens up about their struggles.’

He added: ‘But let’s not kid ourselves that the job is done - there is much more that we can do at every level to make conversations about mental health as common place as those about physical health. For example, we need to better equip our young people with the tools they need to cope with this increasingly complex and fast moving world we live in.

‘I read recently that young people check their phones at least 150 times per day – I’m sure we could all be more effective and efficient if we took a moment to process our thoughts rather than rushing from one thing to the next.

Prince Harry meets Oliver Rooney (left) who has Wolf Hirschhorn Syndrome, with his mother Elizabeth and brothers Samuel, Jack, Joseph and Thomas at their home in Bramley on the second day of his visit to Leeds Photo Nigel Roddis/PA Prince Harry meets Oliver Rooney (left) who has Wolf Hirschhorn Syndrome, with his mother Elizabeth and brothers Samuel, Jack, Joseph and Thomas at their home in Bramley on the second day of his visit to Leeds Photo Nigel Roddis/PA

‘I have just met some of the organisations you have supported; they are working across such a broad range of groups from young people coping with the stresses of life and school, women facing domestic abuse, the LGBT community and those caring for loved ones; each group requiring a unique kind of support.

‘It is this kind of dedicated support which not only helps people to tackle their personal challenges but enables them to go on and flourish. If we invest in supporting our young people now, they will be better placed to succeed in all areas of their lives from work to family and in their communities.

‘I want to congratulate you all on what you have achieved so far and encourage you to redouble your efforts – in the years to come it will be well worth the investment.’

Prince Harry then left the discussion at Aspire in Leeds city centre for the Sky Try Rugby League Festival, at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, which is part of a seven-year programme to encourage 700,000 children into playing rugby league. There he learned more about the programme and met a number of children, coaches and players on the pitch.

The second day of his visit focused on the charity WellChild, of which he is patron. The charity works with children suffering from illnesses or life-altering conditions. Prince Harry visited the home of five-year-old Oliver Rooney in Bramley, Leeds to help WellChild makeover his garden through a ‘Helping Hands’ project. The garden transformation will allow Oliver to go into his garden safely which means he will be able to develop his physical skills and encourage independence. Prince Harry also met families helped by WellChild at Leeds Children’s Hospital.

The prince’s visit ended with a tour of Haribo’s new £92million factory in Castleford, near Leeds where he met those involved in the family-owned business, from its newest recruits to those who have been there for over 27 years.

Find out more about the work of Leeds Community Foundation at leedscf.org.uk and of the WellChild – UK charity for seriously ill children at wellchild.org.uk

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