Duchess Catherine takes action on addiction with speech at conference

The Duchess of Cambridge was at BAFTA headquarters in London on Tuesday, where she gave the keynote speech at event launch for one of her patronages, in a bid to tackle addiction.

The event saw the launch of a new campaign by the Forward Trust and a number of other charities: ‘Taking Action on Addiction’ and it was launched this week to coincide with Addiction Awareness Week and the Royal was there to highlight the campaign, which aims to drive awareness and call for addiction to be treated as a serious mental health condition. It also highlights the need for more openness when talking about addiction, so that it can become easier for people to ask for help.

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Forward Trust is an organisation which aims to help people to break the cycles of addiction or crime and to move forward with their lives. They have been in operation since 1991 and now have service providers in South-East England, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the West Midlands. They have a team of around 430 employees, 20 trainees, and 150 volunteers working on over 40 separate projects, with around 40% of those people having come through addictions themselves.

In June of 2021, Forward Trust merged with Action on Addiction, a patronage held by The Duchess of Cambridge. It was announced after the merger of the two organisations that Catherine would become patron to Forward Trust to continue the work she had already done in that area.

The campaign also launched a short film which explores childhood dreams and aims to challenge people to think differently about addiction, its root causes and the opportunity of recovery. The short film ties in with the Duchess’ work on early years and she has mentioned previously how addiction can stem from situations in a person’s childhood.

The Duchess arrived at the headquarters dressed in vibrant red, and was taken to a room where she was met by presenters Ant and Dec, and musician Tom Walker. Catherine seemed quite surprised to see the television presenters there and joked that she felt ‘like I was walking into a Bushtucker trial!’, a reference to their show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, and that she was not expecting to see them. The two Newcastle-born presenters told Kate that they felt like they were ‘hiding at a surprise birthday party’.

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While they had some fun, this was a serious topic, and the Duchess soon began to speak with Ant about his addiction to drugs and alcohol. The presenter told Catherine that he was in a ‘bad’ place when he finally got help in 2018, after being involved in a car accident. He told her that as soon as you open up and got help: “It gets better and help is there.”

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The Duchess of Cambridge spoke at the
#TakingActiononAddiction campaign this week (@KensingtonRoyal/Twitter)

The duo also work closely with The Prince’s Trust and Prince Charles.

The Royal then met with people who have benefitted from the organisation, whether it was themselves or a family member, and spoke to them about what they experienced and how they have improved their lives since being helped by Forward Trust. She also met with representatives of Forward Trust and the other charities that have come together for this campaign, The Amy Winehouse Foundation, Steps 2 Recovery, Phoenix Futures, Music Support, FAVOR, NACOA, and the Kaleidoscope Project.

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When it came time to give her keynote speech to the assembled audience, Catherine found that the co-host Declan Donnelly had given her a new role, that of “Her Majesty”…! He mistakenly referred to her this way instead of ‘Her Royal Highness’ in his introduction.

The Duchess told her audience that ‘addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to become an addict. But it can happen to any one of us. None of us are immune’.

She acknowledged that the ‘journey towards addiction is often multi-layered and complex’ and that by ‘recognising what lies beneath addiction, we can help remove the taboo and shame’. She told everyone that we, as a society, ‘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. We need to value and prioritise care and support, helping to restore and connect individuals who are clearly suffering, to the people around them’.

The mother-of-three also went on to say that she is passionate about the work being done by the Forward Trust and is ‘so proud’ to be patron of it. She believes the work that the and other charities provide day in, day out, are needed now more than ever.

Addiction Awareness Week runs until the 24th October.

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