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Prince Harry shows support for transgender children as controversial charity invited to mental health talks

Hannah Furness
Prince Harry addresses young people at a WE Day event at Wembley - REUTERS

The Duke of Sussex has offered his encouragement to a controversial charity supporting transgender children, as the Royal Foundation invites Mermaids to join its work on mental health.

Campaigners have spoken of their hopes that his support could change the lives of trans youth, making them feel acknowledged and supported by one of the world's most famous men. 

The Duke, who has made young people a key focus on his work in recent months, spoke with the CEO of Mermaids at a recent round table meeting with aides, believing they are on the front line of mental health work in the UK. 

Heads Together, the umbrella charity run by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, invited Mermaids to the meeting at Ealing YMCA earlier this month in recognition of the “important” work it does.

Susie Green, the charity’s CEO, said the support of the Duke would be “hugely beneficial” in helping transgender children and teenagers, with his words “massively useful for us to be able to feed back to young people”.

The meeting has raised hopes that the Duke’s input could help change perceptions of transgender people and campaigners, who have been the subject of significant controversy in recent years.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex applaud an audience of "inspiring" young people Credit: Reuters

Mermaids, as the UK’s leading charity supporting “gender variant and transgender children”, has faced particular criticism from those who fear confused young people are being encouraged towards medical intervention and transition.

Ms Green said that the invitation from Heads Together had been “quite heartening, bearing in mind that there is such controversy and we are attacked regularly”.

She said criticism of Mermaids' work had been unfair, claiming it is “transparent” and only “wants happy kids”.

Ms Green said that transgender people are facing the “same headlines” as the gay community did 20 or 30 years ago, when the Duke’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales, worked to transform public perceptions.

“I think it's always really important to young people to see that people with the authority and credibility that Prince Harry has are supporting them and are listening and acknowledging the fact that they exist,” she said.

“This is somebody who has got that profile who's showing clear understanding of the issues they're facing.”

The Duke of Sussex at the YMCA event Credit: PA

Ms Green has met the Duke once before, in a 2017 reception for around 100 charities at Buckingham Palace where she briefly described the work she did and he replied: “That’s amazing.”

The roundtable meeting also included representatives from YoungMinds, The Mix, which supports under 25s, and Safe Lives, a domestic abuse charity.

Ms Green said the roundtable would enable Mermaids to build alliances, swap resources and share knowledge with other charities for young people.

After listening to around a dozen participants in the meeting, the Prince spoke about his belief that they needed to highlight more “success stories” of those who have overcome mental health issues.

Susie Green and her daughter Jackie appear on Lorraine in 2011 Credit: Rex

He said: “Every single one of us has mental health. The younger generation feel so much more positive about this.”

A spokesman for the Royal Foundation said: “Mermaids are one of a number of important organisations who are working on the frontline to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people in Britain.

“It is important for The Royal Foundation to work with organisations across the board to best understand the issues young people are dealing with today, and gain a clear understanding of what support is being made available.”