UK emergency service members who contact a new hotline being set up in connection with Prince William, Duchess Kate, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s Shout initiative may soon find a familiar voice offering them support on the other end: the Duke of Cambridge himself.
On Sept. 9, William visited Harcombe House in Devon, one of three residential centres run by The Fire Fighters’ Charity in the UK. The engagement was part of Emergency Services Day, known as 999 Day across the pond. (Brits dial 999 instead of 911 to access emergency services.)
While there, William revealed Shout will soon offer services to emergency services workers themselves as part of a “bluelight” initiative and William said wants to get very involved in providing counselling and support for those workers.
“I’m aiming to set myself up for it,” he said. “I really want to do it. Even if I can only do an hour on my laptop. I want to do the training and be able to help.”
William knows firsthand the challenges emergency services workers face on the job. The future King worked full-time as a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance from 2015 to 2017, and donated his entire salary to the EAAA charity during that period. Prior to that, William worked as a helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue Force.
“As a team, we travel to some very daunting incidents and we have been through some incredibly tough times together, witnessing some appalling tragedies,” William said of the job in 2017, according to People.
“One of the first call outs I made was to a young man who had [died by] suicide; it was an incredibly tough day and had a profound effect on all of us, not least in my determination now to draw attention to this issue.”
While in Devon, William met with retired and current firefighters and their families and attended an art therapy session. He asked about how the conversation around mental health has changed since Richard began working in 1968. “Mental health wasn’t a thing, was it?” he said.
“It’s changed in the last 10 years,” said Dan, a 35-year-old London firefighter. “If you went to an incident that was difficult, it was barely spoken about. People don’t hesitate now. There’s no shame now.”
William said his experiences working in emergency services showed him how workers would often try to “compartmentalize” their work and their personal lives, but couldn’t help but bring the stress home.
“What I always find with the blue light community is that you put the hat and the uniform on day in day out and you see whole families being torn apart,” he said. “If the blue light community can be more open about the things that bother them, then others can as well. We are not robots and, if you are in the emergency services for long enough, you see really distressing things. All that weighs upon you, and if you have something going on at home – family, illness – it all gets on top of you, too many things to keep a lid on.”
The blueline service William helped launch will be available through Crisis Text Line. Any emergency service workers, whether they’re retired or currently on the job, can access it simply by texting BLUELIGHT to 85258 to reach a trained crisis counsellor. The service will also be available to family members.
This isn’t William’s only mental health initiative this fall. The Duke of Cambridge, who is the president of the Football Association, will work with the sport’s governing body and the BBC on documentary called A Royal Road to Wembley: Tackling Mental Health .
The production aims to show how men across the UK struggle with mental health issues and encourage those who are struggling to seek help. The film will use soccer to explain why “mental health is just as important as our physical health,” as William said earlier this month when he encouraged soccer fans to nurture their “everyday mental fitness.” He made the comments when he launched Heads Up , a mental health collaboration between the Royal Family’s Heads Together and the FA.