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William surprises schoolboy who wrote to him about mental health campaign

The Prince of Wales delighted pupils by telling a ‘dad joke’.

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Prince of Wales visit to West Midlands

The Prince of Wales left a boy speechless when he made a surprise visit to the youngster’s school after the pupil requested he come and learn about their mental health campaign.

William walked up to Freddie Hadley and shook hands when he arrived unannounced and left the 12-year-old grinning and later confidently telling the future king he expected him to turn up.

The prince had replied to the schoolboy’s letter on social media in October last year apologising for not attending, but telling the Year 8 pupil to “please keep up this important work” helping to combat the stigma around male mental health.

Prince of Wales visit to West Midlands
The Prince of Wales with students at St Michael’s Church of England High School in Sandwell (Oli Scarff/PA)

When the pair sat down during a group discussion, the future king said his interest in mental health was triggered when he realised it connected issues like homelessness and addiction he encountered in his charitable work, but his “passion” was tackling male wellbeing in light of the high suicide rate of young men.

After the royal visit to St Michael’s Church of England High School in Sandwell, West Midlands, Freddie said: “I really wanted to write the letter because I know Prince William is a massive advocate for male mental health. I thought if I wrote the letter to him he might recognise us, which he did on Twitter.”

“I completely thought it was the Lord Lieutenant who was coming today. Obviously, it was a great surprise so I understand why they didn’t tell me, but honestly it’s just been wonderful.

“I couldn’t get my head around it, I’m meeting Prince William the future king – it’s insane really. I’m just standing there and I see Prince William walking down the drive and I’m like, wow, all this work’s finally paid off.”

The school runs a number of wellbeing initiatives and William joined a group of pupils, including Freddie, who were from the all-male Matrix Project which runs the Am I Manly Enough? campaign, tackling the stigma around male mental health.

The group also takes part in a school show, broadcast on local radio, on the topic, and lightens the issue by having a segment on “dad jokes” and the prince was asked to contribute and told them a “knock-knock” joke.

Prince of Wales visit to West Midlands
The Prince of Wales during a visit to St Michael’s Church of England High School to learn about their mental health campaign (Oli Scarff/PA)

In his pre-recorded piece William told the listeners: “I’ve been asked to produce a dad joke so I’m trying to channel Jack Whitehall, because most of his jokes are pretty dad-like.

“I think what I’ll do, is I’ll say a joke which is Charlotte’s favourite joke at the moment, she keeps telling me.”

William said “knock knock” and when the pupils said “who’s there” the royal replied “Interrupting cow” and as the group tried to say “interrupting cow who?” he made them laugh by saying “Mooo”.

The schoolboys quizzed the prince, who was gifted a brink pink Am I Manly Enough? reusable cup, about his interest in the issue, and he told them he found mental health was the “bigger piece”, when you put together the “jigsaw” of issues like homelessness and depression.

Prince of Wales visit to West Midlands
William shook the hands of dozens of school children when he left. Oli Scarff/PA

After chatting to people in the sector he realised many people were “terrified” to talk about the issue: “I was suddenly like ‘this is unacceptable, we’ve got to be able to talk about this’.

“And what is quite interesting, when we first started talking about mental health not one celebrity wanted to join us and talk about it – not one.”

He stressed the problem of mental health needed to be faced “upstream” rather than just focusing on a cure “If you can tackle these things earlier, you get to them quicker”.

William later joined other pupils engaged in well-being activities like table discussions, and during his visit he found his support of Aston Villa football club, in an area close to local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City, raised a few eyebrows.

As he left the school he was given a rapturous send-off by dozens of children in an atrium area and outside he went on a walkabout shaking hands of pupils as he made his way to his car.