Prince William says not wearing contact lenses helped him beat anxiety

Prince William says taking out his contact lenses so he couldn’t see his audience helped him overcome his fear of public speaking

  • New BBC mental health documentary to air tonight featuring Prince William 
  • BBC One documentary is called Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health
  • It follows the Prince’s work with mental health in football initiative Heads Up
  • Documentary, also featuring football stars, airs at 8.05pm tonight on BBC One 

The Duke of Cambridge says he managed to overcome his anxiety about giving important speeches because his weakening eye-sight meant he could no longer see people’s faces properly.

Prince William said crowds eventually became ‘just a blur of faces’ because he would not wear contact lenses while working.

But while talking to a grassroots footballer, himself a sufferer of anxiety, the Duke admitted it helped him overcome his nerves while giving speeches.

In a new documentary set to air tonight on mental health within football, involving the Prince’s work with the initiative Heads Up, he said: ‘My eyesight started to tail off a little bit as I got older, and I didn’t used to wear contacts when I was working, so when I gave speeches I couldn’t see anyone’s face.

The Duke of Cambridge (pictured) says he managed to overcome his anxiety about giving important speeches because his weakening eye-sight meant he could no longer see people's faces properly

The Duke of Cambridge (pictured) says he managed to overcome his anxiety about giving important speeches because his weakening eye-sight meant he could no longer see people’s faces properly

The Duke, seen here with his grandmother The Queen at the Royal Albert Hall in 2015, needs glasses but often wears contact lenses for public engagements

The Duke, seen here with his grandmother The Queen at the Royal Albert Hall in 2015, needs glasses but often wears contact lenses for public engagements

William, here giving a speech in November last year in London, said removing his contact lenses helps him to overcome anxiety about speaking to mass audiences

William, here giving a speech in November last year in London, said removing his contact lenses helps him to overcome anxiety about speaking to mass audiences 

William made the admission in a soon-to-air documentary on mental health within football, involving the Prince's work with the initiative Heads Up. Pictured: Prince William meets grassroots footballers as part of the documentary

William made the admission in a soon-to-air documentary on mental health within football, involving the Prince’s work with the initiative Heads Up. Pictured: Prince William meets grassroots footballers as part of the documentary

Prince William said during the documentary that due to his weakening eye-sight, crowds eventually became 'just a blur of faces' because he would not wear contact lenses while working

Prince William said during the documentary that due to his weakening eye-sight, crowds eventually became ‘just a blur of faces’ because he would not wear contact lenses while working

‘And it helps, because it’s just a blur of faces and because you can’t see anyone looking at you – I can see enough to read the paper and stuff like that – but I couldn’t actually see the whole room.

‘And actually that really helped with my anxiety…’ 

William’s candid comments were made in a BBC documentary, called Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health – which will air tonight on BBC One.

The Prince was followed for the past year for the BBC film as he travelled around the country promoting his Heads Up initiative, which aims to raise awareness about mental health and encourage football supporters to speak about their problems or support a fellow fan.

The avid Aston Villa fan revealed football has become more important to him as he has got older: ‘You know it’s weird because, I’ve always loved football but I love football more now than I’ve ever loved it before and I don’t know what it is, whether it’s because I’m a parent now and I need football more in my life, I don’t know maybe it is that.’

William also spoke openly about the issues surrounding male suicide, saying:  ‘It’s scary and it’s frightening and it’s real.’

The duke believes the continuing ‘stigma’ around mental health stems from the internalised grief and sadness the country felt after two world wars and people’s desire to forget the experience and ‘get on with life’.

During the BBC documentary, called Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health, which is set to be aired on Thursday evening, Prince William met with grassroots and professional footballers, including ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart

During the BBC documentary, called Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health, which is set to be aired on Thursday evening, Prince William met with grassroots and professional footballers, including ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart

William, an avid Aston Villa fan, revealed football has become more important to him as he has got older. Pictured: Prince William with players from Everton FC

William, an avid Aston Villa fan, revealed football has become more important to him as he has got older. Pictured: Prince William with players from Everton FC

During a visit to West Bromwich Albion Football Club to meet players past and present who have experienced people close to them committing suicide, the duke said: ‘It is one of the biggest killers of young men under 45.

‘As pain and grief goes, and I’ve heard this from sadly too many families who have been bereaved by suicide, it is one of the rawest forms of grief because you’re left with so many unanswered questions.

‘Could I have done more, should I have done more, why did they do it?’

William went on to say: ‘Suicide, it’s scary and it’s frightening and it’s real.

‘Men seem to have a real issue with opening up and being able to talk about it.

‘If we can have a major impact on lowering suicide rates, that’s a success from this campaign.’

The coronavirus outbreak has meant the Heads Up project is on hold due to the disruption to football matches across the country.

But William said he hoped another legacy of his initiative would be ‘football clubs from grassroots to the elite level can all point to, or demonstrate, or have within them some sort of mental health facility or support that can look after players of all walks of life…’

Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health will be broadcast on Thursday at 8.05pm on BBC One.

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