Duchess Kate makes a passionate keynote speech at addiction awareness campaign launch

By Zach Harper

Duchess Kate made a passionate keynote speech at the new campaign by patronage The Forward Trust on Oct. 19, in which she emphasized the role supportive early childhood care can play in reducing the likelihood people will develop addictions later in life.

The Duchess of Cambridge visited the BAFTA headquarters in London to help launch the Taking Action on Addiction campaign. Oct. 18 to 24 is Addiction Awareness Week in the United Kingdom, and The Forward Trust is looking to boost understanding about substance misuse and how to get help. That's taken on additional level of importance with the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has posed since March 2020.

"The pandemic has had a devastating impact on addiction rates, and families and children are having to cope with addiction in greater numbers than ever before," Kate said in her speech, adding that more than 1.5 million people across the country who may not have had problems with substance misuse before are experiencing them now.

She also said approximately 2 million people who were in recovery are likely to have relapsed since the start of the pandemic.

Kate also had a conversation with the families of people in recovery at the event, hearing about their experiences and how to improve support. Photo: © Paul Grover - WPA Pool/Getty Images

"Addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to become an addict," the mom of three added. "But it can happen to any one of us. None of us are immune. It is all too rarely discussed as a serious mental health condition, and seldom do we take time to uncover and fully understand its fundamental root causes."

Kate has long been an advocate of giving children greater supports in regards to their mental health so there is less likelihood they will experience emotional difficulties, mental health issues and other problems later in life. Earlier this summer, she launched The Royal Foundation for Early Childhood to help with this very thing. In its first inaugural report, the duchess wrote that the first five years of a person's life "lay important foundations for our future selves."

"This period is when we first learn to manage our emotions and impulses, to care and empathize and thus ultimately to establish healthy relationships with ourselves and others," she wrote. "It is a time when our experience of the world around us, and the way that moulds our development, can have a lifelong impact on our future mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, what shapes our childhood shapes the adults and parents we become."

The centre's goal is to bring people and organizations together across the public and private sectors to help focus on solutions to issues children face early in life, that may contribute to problems such as addiction and other mental health issues later. There are clear intersections with The Forward Trust's work that Kate recognized in her keynote speech on Oct. 19.

"The journey towards addiction is often multi-layered and complex. But by recognizing what lies beneath addiction, we can help remove the taboo and shame that sadly surrounds it," she said.

"As a society, we need to start from a position of compassion and empathy – where we nurture those around us, understand their journey and what has come before them."

Kate went on to add that meeting people who have battled addiction had been a "privilege" for her because their work and acts of service inspire others to do their own and helped saved many lives.

"We can all play our part in helping this work," she added. "By understanding, by listening, by connecting. So that together we can build a happier, healthier and more nurturing society."

While at the event, Kate ran into Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnolly, the hosts of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. In a very rare moment, Ant took the time to talk to the duchess about his own battles with addiction.

He was on painkillers after a 2015 knee operation and went to rehab in 2018 after crashing his car. Back then, he was driving with more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, and decided to go to rehab to address what he was experiencing with painkillers and alcohol.

"By the time I asked for help, it was bad, but as soon as you opened up to people, problems have got to disappear," the 45-year-old told Kate. "It gets better, and help is there."

Back in June, Kate became a patron of The Forward Trust after it merged with Action on Addiction. The latter had been one of Kate's longest patronages, with her supporting the organization's work since 2012. Since then, she has helped raise awareness about addiction and its root causes and has been tireless in her support for the organization's goals. We're happy to see that continuing with The Forward Trust.

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