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Prince Harry Makes a Strong Statement About How Addictive Social Media Can Be

During today's discussion at the YMCA, the soon-to-be dad warned of the negative impact social media and video games like Fortnite can have on mental health.
IMAGE WPA POOL / GETTY IMAGES
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Prince Harry spoke passionately about the challenges facing young people today as he joined a discussion on mental health. The Duke of Sussex, who is expecting the imminent arrival of his first child, visited the YMCA in south Ealing today to view their services and hear from those working in the field. The dad-to-be also popped in on a children’s ballet class at the center where he met a three-month-old baby and was keen to ask her mom how she was sleeping.


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Prince Harry playing with a baby during today’s visit to the YMCA.

On arrival at the center in west London, the prince first met residents who are living in some of the organization's 151 beds as well as YMCA staff. He also heard about the YMCA’s #IAMWHOLE campaign in partnership with the NHS, Britain's national health service, which aims to to encourage young people to talk more openly about mental health concerns and offers them support.

It was when he sat down for a roundtable discussion with representatives from 12 organizations, however, that he opened up on his thoughts about the challenges in the field of mental health. Making the point that success stories should be celebrated more, Harry said, "There is too much negativity surrounding mental health, and no wonder it’s so hard for young people to actually talk about it. Look at growing up in today’s world. Social media is more addictive than drugs and alcohol yet it’s more dangerous because it’s normalized and there are no restrictions to it."

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He continued, "We are in really quite a mind-altering time, as well as an exciting time, because everyone in this room has the opportunity to make a real difference and to change the times. So that younger people coming through are less connected to their phones—well they can be just as connected to their phones if they want to be—but they have to have the human connection as well. Without that human connection, when you do have a problem you have nowhere to go. And the only place you might go is back online.”

The discussion, which was convened by the Royal Foundation’s mental health campaign Heads Together, featured representatives from organizations including Young Minds, Student Minds, Stonewall, which supports the LGBT community, Safe Lives, which helps victims of domestic abuse, the anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label, and Beat which works with people with eating disorders.

The conversation comes in the wake of an NHS study in the U.K., which found that one out of every eight youths aged 5 to 19, who were assessed in 2017, had at least one mental health issue. This rose to one in six among 17 to 19-year-olds. Boys were found to be more likely to suffer then girls up to the age of 11, but by the time they reached the age group of 17 to 19, girls were more than twice as likely to have a mental health disorder as their male peers.

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Pointing out that "every single one of us" could suffer from mental health problems, Harry asked the group what the situation was like with funding. Many of the representatives responded that, while the fact that more people are coming forward to access services is great, funding is not keeping pace.

Pointing out the importance of presenting young people with role models who have dealt with mental health issues, Harry said, "Those are the icons, those are the people that young people need to see, hearing their stories for relatability."

At the end of the discussion Harry made strong comments about video game Fortnite, saying, "That game shouldn’t even be allowed. What is the benefit of having that game in your household, no matter what age you are. It’s created as an addiction to keep you in front of a computer as long as possible."

Chief Executive of Young Minds, Emma Thomas, who chaired the session, told T&C afterwards,"I think it was really fruitful. It wasn't just a sharing of experiences but very much how do we come together to do more together for young people."

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She added about the prince’s involvement, "There’s really strong convening power so obviously you get really good representation. But I think you could hear from his passion today that it’s a long-term commitment...It’s clear around the social media side and the online games that he has a real concern around that."

Sophia Zahra, 21, from Swansea, who met the prince when he arrived at the center, was helped by the YMCA as a 17-year-old and now works for YMCA Swansea.

"He was very empathic and understanding. We spoke about environment and how it can pay a huge part in your mental health," she said about Harry. "He spoke about using social media in a positive way to normalize the conversation about mental health. He said [social media] can be a positive thing and a negative."

Before he left, Harry dropped into a ballet class, one of the community projects run by the center. "He was so excited and happy about the baby," Maria Ahmad, who met Harry with her three-month-old daughter Naz, said.

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Prince Harry taking part in the dance class.

"He was asking about her sleeping—I think he's worried about that—if she sleeps at night time."

She added about meeting the prince: "It was a nice surprise. He is a good person."

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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