Prince Harry announces new health initiative for military members

PHOTO: Prince Harry, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge cheer on runners at a Heads Together cheering point along the route of The Virgin Money London Marathon 2017, April 23, 2017 in London.PlayKensington Palace
WATCH British Royals Participate in Relay Race for Heads Together Charity

Prince Harry announced in a speech today that he is partnering with the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense to help improve the mental health of members of the Armed Forces.

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"My 10 years in the Army taught me a great deal. I learned about the true meaning of service, duty, resilience and dedication," said Harry, 33, who was known as Capt. Wales. "But in many ways I have learned more about the sacrifices our servicemen and women make for us all since I left the Army and continued my work with the Invictus Games."

He continued, "Quite simply, these men and women are prized assets which need to be continually invested in. We surely have to think of them as high performance athletes, carrying all their kit, equipment and a rifle. Crucially, fighting fitness is not just about physical fitness. It is just as much about mental fitness too."

Harry described the new initiative as "providing tools and information that will help everyone in the defense community to get ahead of some of these problems before they start."

Harry’s speech came one day after he joined Prince William and Princess Kate in announcing they would invest funds from their Royal Foundation in the Heads Together campaign. The latest phase of the campaign is designed to create online tools to help people with mental health.

The grant represents the single largest donation from their foundation since it was established in 2011.

The grant will help create a "start up for digital mental health innovation," including digital assets and signposts to "smash the stigma" of mental health, William announced. The new startup aims to provide tools for conversation and encourage those who might otherwise be reluctant to get the help they need.

The organization that the grant will establish aims to create "digital solutions for mental health," according to the Heads Together foundation. William, 35, said he hopes to create a “metaphorical barrier” which will allow those who are lacking in proper mental health treatment “to bring them into the fold and give them the help they need.”

In the coming months, Heads Together will tackle mental issues in the military, the workplace and for young men. Approximately 75 percent of suicides in the United Kingdom are by young men, Heads Together says.

Experts at the market research firm YouGov, which tracked 14,000 individuals and experts from Heads Together's eight charity partners, note that Harry's admission that he too struggled with his own mental health after the 1997 death of his mother, the late Princess Diana, has encouraged other men to seek help and start a conversation.

William, Kate and Harry have spent the last year campaigning for young and old people to start conversations at home, among friends and in schools, and encouraged children to speak up and ask for help before mental health problems escalate.

"You’d struggle to find a parent out there who wouldn’t want the well-being of their child to be taken care of at school," William said last Friday at Imperial College in London.

Roughly 50 million people have viewed the royals’ “OK to Say” campaign since 2016, while 19 million watched William’s conversation with Lady Gaga about mental health in April.

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