Prince Harry gives backing for cause close to his heart on day one of Leeds visit

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He came, he saw, he won the hearts of everyone he met – and today he’s set to do it all again.

Prince Harry proved a massive hit yesterday in Leeds as he kicked off an eagerly-awaited two-day visit to West Yorkshire.

Prince Harry meets members of the public as he leaves following a visit to the Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds event, a charity fair and panel discussion aimed at highlighting the issues that affect the mental well-being of young people in the city and how organisations can support future generations. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Prince Harry meets members of the public as he leaves following a visit to the Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds event, a charity fair and panel discussion aimed at highlighting the issues that affect the mental well-being of young people in the city and how organisations can support future generations. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Scores of well-wishers turned out to give him a right royal Yorkshire welcome in the sunshine when he arrived for his first engagement of the day, at the historic Aspire building on Infirmary Street in the city centre.

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It was hosting Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds, an event bringing together mental health projects that have received support from the Leeds Community Foundation charity’s Leeds Fund programme.

We need to better equip our young people with the tools they need to cope with this increasingly complex and fast-moving world.

Prince Harry, talking at yesterday’s mental health event in Leeds.

Mental health is an important cause for 32-year-old Harry, who talked earlier this year about the turmoil he endured while trying to come to terms with the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

He is also spearheading an awareness campaign called Heads Together with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and in May the three royals backed the Yorkshire Evening Post’s #SpeakYourMind initiative.

In a speech at yesterday’s event, Harry said: “[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.

“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.

Prince Harry arrives at Aspire in Leeds where he attended a Leeds Lead: Encouraging Happy Young Minds. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Prince Harry arrives at Aspire in Leeds where he attended a Leeds Lead: Encouraging Happy Young Minds. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“But let’s not kid ourselves that the job is done – there is much, much more that we can do at every level to make conversations about mental health as commonplace as those about physical health.”

The Prince added: “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.”

The Prince’s support was welcomed by another of yesterday’s speakers, Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan.

He told the YEP: “It’s been fantastic to have Prince Harry in Leeds. The Heads Together campaign he has launched with his brother and his sister-in-law has made a really big difference, I think particularly to young people who haven’t felt able in the past to maybe talk about or share their concerns or anxiety about mental health issues.

Prince Harry speaking at  Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds, Aspire in Leeds.
 Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Prince Harry speaking at Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds, Aspire in Leeds. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“I think him coming forward and talking about it has made a real cut-through.”

Other speakers included Leeds Rhinos star Stevie Ward, who struggled with depression after suffering a series of injuries and last year launched Mantality, an online lifestyle magazine that aims to help people open up about mental health issues.

Talking about making his speech in front of Harry and the 250-strong audience, he said: “It was quite incredible, really. There was such a big energy in the room and when you’ve got everyone rooting for the same thing in a room, it sends a massive message and it’s a real big step forward in changing the culture around mental health. I was absolutely privileged and honoured to be here.”

Leeds Community Foundation chief executive Sally-Anne Greenfield told the YEP she was “very proud” that the Prince had chosen to come to the charity’s event.

She said: “He was utterly charming and really engaged and spent lots of time speaking to some of the community groups we’ve funded. We think [the visit] is really important for the city because it has helped raise the profile of mental health in Leeds. We’ve been trending on Twitter and it’s good to explain to people that there is support out there.”

Carers Leeds, Getaway Girls, Leeds Mind, Leeds Women’s Aid, Touchstone, The Market Place and Health For All were among the groups at the event that have had backing from The Leeds Fund. Luke Hastings, 13, from Seacroft, has benefited from services run by Health For All’s Connected scheme and yesterday he got the chance to speak to Harry.

Prince Harry talks a stall holders at  Aspire in Leeds where he attended  Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Prince Harry talks a stall holders at Aspire in Leeds where he attended Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“It was great to talk to him,” said Luke, a pupil at John Smeaton Academy. “He said it was good to hear from a young person and that sometimes it’s fine to be nervous.”

Royal fans who had gathered outside Aspire were rewarded when Harry squeezed in a quickfire meet-and-greet as he left the building en route to his next engagement at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.

Deborah Mann, from Castleford, was among those who shared a few words with the VIP.

She said: “He asked me if I knew what had been going on inside. I joked that I’d heard there was some sort of royal visit and he seemed to like that.”

Prince Harry chats to onlookers as he leaves Aspire in Leeds where he attended a conference, Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Prince Harry chats to onlookers as he leaves Aspire in Leeds where he attended a conference, Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Councillors met at Civic Hall to hear about the latest progress with the community hubs programme.

Leeds council services pop up in GP surgery and converted pub