Prince William wants football to tackle mental health, jokes his nerves are 'frayed' by Aston Villa play-off

Tom Morgan
The Duke of Cambridge launches new mental health campaign  - PA

The Duke of Cambridge has called on football fans to talk about their mental health as much as they currently discuss injuries to star players in the pub.

The Duke appeared at Wembley with outgoing Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn in a bid to get more men talking about their state of mind, which, he said, they currently find "alien" to discuss.

While meeting campaigners, the Duke joked that his own nerves were "frayed" after Aston Villa's dramatic play-off semi-final victory on penalties against West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday.

The Tottenham and England right-back Danny Rose, who has spoken out about his own battle with depression, was also praised by the charity Mind at the launch of Heads Up, billed as the biggest ever conversation around mental health.

A partnership between the FA and Heads Together, the campaign spearheaded by the Duke's Royal Foundation will run throughout the 2019/20 season to get all football fans - in particular men - talking about their mental fitness.

The Duke of Cambridge, President of the Football Association, speaks to the press about mental health at Wembley Credit: AFP

Asked about why men opt not to discuss their mental health, the Duke told the event: "I think men find that very difficult to talk about, talk about stuff that really bothers them.

"I think emotions, feelings, are kind of like a bit alien over here - we don't really want to touch them too much because we're worried about how we're going to react or how people think about about us.

Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, with suicide the most likely cause of death for men under the age of 45.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn and Mind chief executive Paul Farmer announced the campaign alongside the Duke, which will be launched at the FA Community Shield in August 2019 and will culminate at the FA Cup Final in May 2020.

It will be visible across all levels of football, including the men's and women's England teams.

"The UK has taken a step forward and I'm proud of the part Heads Together and our partners have played in that," the Duke, speaking during mental health awareness week, said.

"Since launching the first campaign, I have wanted to do more to get men talking. It's no surprise that they've been the hardest group to shift.

"As president of the FA, I saw an opportunity to bring the sport I love, that many men talk about more than anything else in their lives, to help lead the next phase of the conversation.

"Over the last two years, we've been working behind the scenes to decide the best way to harness the power of football to really change the way men think about mental health."

The Duke met with the founders of FC Not Alone, a football-based platform centred around mental health, at the stadium on Wednesday.

The project supports charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) after founder Matthew Legg's battle with depression.

The Duke joked about his team Aston Villa with Mr Legg and co-founder Ian McKenziy. Villa reached the Championship play-off final at Wembley stadium after beating West Brom on penalties.