The theme of the event, held at London’s Canary Wharf, was resilience and emotional strength, with speakers addressing the challenges faced by children and young people.
Bonita Refson, Chief Executive of Place2Be, introduced The Duchess to the event, saying she was “delighted” to be joined by the royal, who became Patron of the charity in April.
She told The Duchess: “Thank you for sharing our passionate belief that early intervention in children’s well-being and mental health really does matter.”
Her Royal Highness, sitting in the front row, paid close attention to what was being said about how the charity helps children to have the best start in life.
The Duchess, herself a new mother, listened to speeches by clinician and broadcaster Professor Tanya Byron, who addressed the issue of cyber-bullying and how young people can stay safe online, and Professor Stephen Scott from King’s College London, who discussed helping parents to raise well-adjusted children.
Place2Be supports 75,000 children in more than 200 schools in some of the most deprived areas of the UK. The issues it helps children to deal with include bullying, bereavement and family breakdown.
The Duchess enjoyed the event so much she decided to stay for an hour longer than planned.
Kensington Palace confirmed it had been a spur-of-the-moment decision by The Duchess to attend two further sessions, on tackling addiction and preventing self-harm.
She is particularly interested in the issue of addiction, as Patron of Action on Addiction, one of her nine patronages.
The Duchess took the opportunity while at the event to speak to experts about early years development, asking Prof Byron specifically about babies and toddlers.
Prof Byron said: “She was very interested in the early years, from newborns to five-year-olds, which I guess is because she’s a new mother but also because she’s interested.”
Her Royal Highness also spoke to the professor about issues facing young people in the digital age.
Prof Byron said it meant a lot to have The Duchess supporting the charity, and the wider issues surrounding children’s mental health.
She said: "She’s a mother and she’s obviously high profile. She’s interested and she’s really engaged.
“When I was speaking, she said to the person next to her: ‘I hope you’re making notes’.
“She’s genuinely engaged with the issues. She has given us such a seal of approval in a very public manner, from a woman who is loved by the public and has become a mother herself.
“The Duchess was asking questions, and mentioned she was at a meeting yesterday when the issue of sexting came up as well.”
Prof Byron said Her Royal Highness also asked about the pre-frontal cortex, which governs emotional behaviour, and how the wiring of that part of the brain develops between the ages of 11 and 14.
She added: “She is a really bright, thoughtful woman and it was so nice to meet her.”
During the event, The Duchess also listened to a performance from St Edmund’s School choir. The school had been chosen to represent the establishments that Place2Be works with.
Ms Refson said: “Tough topics were covered today, but it was hugely inspiring and encouraging seeing experts from across education and mental health uniting in their passion to tackle problems affecting children, and a shared vision of hope and prosperity for our future generation – translating the potential for collaboration into a reality holds the key to truly meeting children’s often multiple and challenging needs and giving them back the childhood they deserve.”