The Duchess of Cambridge has warned that “none of us are immune” from addiction, as she highlighted the “devastating impact” the pandemic has had on addiction rates.
Kate, who is patron of the Forward Trust charity, delivered a keynote speech at the Bafta headquarters in London to launch the Taking Action on Addiction campaign.
The duchess said: “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.
“Yet it’s all too rarely discussed as a serious mental health condition. And seldom do we take the time to uncover and fully understand its fundamental root causes.
“The journey towards addiction is often multi-layered and complex. But, by recognising what lies beneath addiction, we can help remove the taboo and shame that sadly surrounds it.”
Taking Action on Addiction is a long-term campaign which will work to improve awareness and understanding of addiction, and its causes and scale in society, to enable more people to ask for and receive help.
The duchess spoke to TV duo Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, who compered the event, about McPartlin’s former addiction problems.
McPartlin told Kate: “I found that myself. By the time I asked for help, it was bad, but as soon as you opened up to people, problems have got to disappear.
“It gets better and help is there.”
McPartlin struggled with a two-year addiction to super-strength painkillers following a knee operation in 2015.
He crashed his car in 2018 while more than twice the alcohol limit, before entering rehab.
The duchess described how the Covid-19 crisis has affected addiction rates, with some 1.5 million more people facing problems with alcohol, and almost one million young people experiencing an increase in addictive behaviour.
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on addiction rates. And families and children are having to cope with addiction in greater numbers than ever before,” she said.
“We know that over one-and-a-half million people across the UK who did not have substance misuse prior to lockdown may now be experiencing problems associated with increased alcohol consumption.
“Around two million individuals who were identified as being in recovery may have experienced a relapse over the past 18 months.
“And almost one million young people and children are showing an increase in addictive behaviour since the pandemic began.”
Kate met beneficiaries of the Forward Trust, as well as former addicts, to hear of their experiences.
The duchess was dressed in a pleated red skirt and matching turtleneck – echoing something of her husband the Duke of Cambridge’s look after he wore a polo neck – with green velvet jacket – to the Earthshot Prize awards on Sunday.
She called for society to start with compassion and empathy and to value and prioritise care and support, adding that there was hope and that she had met “many incredible people who have lived through the harsh realities of addiction” over the last decade.
“Through their own hard work, and with the help from communities and charities, such as the Forward Trust, lives really are being turned around,” she said.
Kate added: “We can all play our part in helping this work. By understanding, by listening, by connecting. So that together we can build a happier, healthier and more nurturing society.”
The Forward Trust aims to empower people to break the cycles of addiction or crime to help them move forward with their lives.