Prince William tells emergency workers: ‘Be the first responders for your own mental health’

Emergency services workers cannot be expected to “continually shoulder the strain of their roles without any consequences”, the Duke of Cambridge has warned.

The Duke, who unveiled a support package for 999 staff and volunteers on Thursday, said it was essential for those on the front line to look after themselves as “tirelessly” as they looked after others.

He spoke of his own time as an air ambulance pilot, and the “split personalities” often required so as not to burden family left at home with the “tragic” realities of work as a first responder.

“Supporting the mental health of our emergency services is extremely personal to me,” he said, lending his support to “mandatory decompression breaks” for 999 staff to help them process trauma in between difficult jobs.

“I remember the pressure of attending calls in the most stressful conditions, sometimes with tragic conclusions. I remember the sense of solidarity with my team, pulling together to do the best we could and sharing the weight of responsibility.

“I also remember returning home with the stresses and strains of the day weighing on my mind, and wanting to avoid burdening my family with what I had seen.”

The Duke of Cambridge with Martin Hewitt, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council at The Royal Foundation's emergency services mental health symposium in London

Credit: Andrew Matthews – WPA Pool/Getty Images

The event, convened by his Royal Foundation, invited 200 leaders from Britain’s key emergency services to mark the launch of Blue Light Together, a package of mental health support for emergency responders and their families.

It includes the emergency services pledge to prioritise wellbeing, a dedicated website of resources for blue light workers, families and veterans to show them how to find help, and the Blue Light Together Network of emergency services therapists in one easy-to-navigate directory.

Calling it a “big moment” at a “critical time”, the Duke said the coronavirus pandemic had been a “sharp reminder of the debt of gratitude we owe to staff and volunteers from our police, fire, ambulance, and search and rescue services”.

Many found the pressure on their mental health “almost unmanageable”, he added, placed under “inordinate amounts of pressure – not just professionally, but also personally”.

“We cannot expect our emergency responders to be able to continually shoulder the strain of their roles without any consequences.”

Numbers to call

The Duke spoke to an audience, which included the chief officers of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, National Fire Chiefs Council and Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, as well as Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, and Dame Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

He said: “I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks on behalf of a grateful nation to all emergency responders – from whichever service, doing whatever role, in any location across the UK.

“The work you do is some of the toughest out there, and we owe you an enormous debt of gratitude. I would only ask that you look out for your own wellbeing, just as you tirelessly care for everyone else’s.”

The Duke of Cambridge spent two years working for the East Anglian Air Ambulance

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Duke also appeared in a video, speaking to emergency care assistant Chloe Taylor, 24, and paramedic Will Parish, 27, about the pressures of their roles.

He admitted the air ambulance jobs he attended with children had “really affected” him, saying he found solace in speaking openly to colleagues afterwards.

“If we weren’t affected by emotions, we’d all be robots,” said the Duke. “So, you know, it’s OK to be affected by emotions. It’s very British for us all to worry about, you know, being affected by emotions – but we all are.

“That’s what makes our relationships important. It’s crucial. But it’s just managing those feelings so we can have time to feel we can breathe again.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *