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17th September 2015

The Duchess of Cambridge dons a pair of 3D glasses as she tests her powers of concentration during a visit to the mental health centre

The Duchess of Cambridge dons a pair of 3D glasses as she tests her powers of concentration during a visit to the mental health centre

The Duchess of Cambridge donned a pair of 3D glasses as she tested her powers of concentration during a visit to a leading children's mental health centre.

She slipped on the spectacles as she joined 12-year-old Capone in trying to keep track of a tennis ball jumbled up among a group of others in the NeuroTracker game.

Used by athletes to enhance their performance, it is part of the normal routine for pupils attending a school run by the Anna Freud Centre, a leading charity in research, teaching and the provision of care for children and young people with mental health issues.

The Duchess managed to keep track of her ball, as did the young schoolboy sitting by her side, and she looked a little relieved at the end of the test.

Her tour to the centre and its school - both near King's Cross station in central London - will have shone a spotlight on the issue of children's mental health which will be an ongoing area of focus for Her Royal Highess.

The Duchess is particularly interested in supporting early intervention programmes that tackle complex social issues, especially those that provide support to vulnerable families or children to build their resilience to cope with life's challenges from an early age.

Her Royal Highness met parents and their children when she toured the centre's school, now in its second year, and joined in the fun in the SmartGym and also visited a normal classroom.

Pupils are accompanied by a mother, father or other relative who are on hand to provide a stable point of contact for children who may have issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The interactive area not only featured the NeuroTracker but a cardio wall where pupils are encouraged to hit coloured lights in a given time period, and another similar game that allows parents to play with their children.

The Duchess of Cambridge tried her hand at this game, joining 12-year-old Kaionel who had taken around the SmartGym, and they took it in turns to wave their hands over the lights as they appeared on a grid in front of them.

She laughed as she tried to reach for the lights but the pair worked well as a team and were told they had not missed any of them.

Parents whose children attend the Anna Freud Centre school are encouraged to join in with aspects of the academic day, and Her Royal Highness visited one classroom where mothers and fathers were reviewing their children's behaviour.

Sitting opposite their son or daughter, they listened as the youngsters evaluated their own actions over the day.


The Duchess of Cambridge meets children benefitting from the work of the Anna Freud Centre

The Duchess of Cambridge meets children benefitting from the work of the Anna Freud Centre

The Duchess of Cambridge sat with Mia, aged 12, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a condition known as oppositional defiant disorder.

The schoolgirl, who has been attending the school for a year, said afterwards: "I thought she was going to very, very posh but she's actually really, really nice, I didn't expect that.

"Coming here has really helped me with my self control and temper and confidence."

Her mother Vicki, said: "The school just doesn't support the children, it's the parents as well, they do a lot."

The Duchess had begun her visit touring the nearby Anna Freud Centre named after one of the daughters of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. She was a pioneer of child psychoanalysis and instrumental in the charity's creation.

She set up the Hampstead War Nurseries in 1941 in response to the social and emotional upheaval faced by children in wartime, and over the decades it developed into a centre of teaching and research and became a major service provider.

It is soon to embark on a major £25 million redevelopment of its site to create a comprehensive home for its school and other departments in one place. Her Royal Highness was shown a small scale model of the plans and also chatted to senior staff during a private meeting about the charity's work.

Neil Dawson, one of the co-founders of the charity's school, said about the royal visit: "It's very helpful to be honest, anything to do with mental health is very much at the bottom of the pile in medical terms.

"To get somebody who puts a lot of emphasis on supporting it, that's absolutely brilliant."

Brenda McHugh, another co-founder, added: "Anybody who can help with de-stigmatising mental health - that's got to be good.

"We felt she had a good understanding of children's mental health and appreciates the challenges."

The Duchess of Cambridge was joined for her visit by Michael Samuel, chairman of the Anna Freud Centre's trustees.

During a speech to mark her visit, the chairman of the trustees told The Duchess of Cambridge  and other invited guests: "It is no secret to anyone in this room that mental health is fast becoming an overriding priority for us all.

"The attention that mental health is now getting is long overdue but the harsh reality of the situation is this - one in ten children and young people, and one in four adults experience mental issues at some time in their life."

He added: "Half of people with life long mental problems have their first symptoms by the age of 14, if we could address this effectively what a difference it would make."