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Prince William visits Belfast to show support for special day

The Duke of Cambridge discussed the importance of mental health support

Danielle Stacey

The Duke of Cambridge has returned to his royal duties following his summer break with wife Kate and their three children. Prince William, 38, travelled to Belfast on Wednesday to mark Emergency Services Day (999 Day), where he spent time with Northern Irish emergency responders to thank them for their work and to discuss the importance of mental health support.

Emergency Services Day takes place annually on 9 September to show support to the two million people working and volunteering in the emergency services sector and the NHS across the country.

READ: Prince William writes moving open letter after 'unsettling period'

The royal family shared a post on Instagram of Poet Laureate Simon Armitage's reading of his work The Omnipresent and photos of the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Cambridges meeting frontline staff to mark Emergency Services Day.

On a tour of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's training college in Belfast, William thanked police officers, firefighters and ambulance crew members for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a speech, he said: "This has already been an extraordinary year. The months ahead will no doubt be uncertain and at points scary.

"But, thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of those of you working across the emergency services and in the NHS, I count myself and others in this country very fortunate.

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William meeting with Chiefs of the PSNI, Fire Service and Ambulance Service

"Your dedication is not only apparent when we are faced with a global pandemic.

"Each and every day, people from teams across the blue light community are called to the scenes of dreadful incidents."

During his visit to the college, William also met five-month-old Irish setter Tara, who has been trained to provide comfort to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

MORE: Why it's a big week for Prince George and Princess Charlotte

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The Duke also met Irish setter Tara

The Duke's visit to Northern Ireland comes after he convened the first meeting of the Emergency Responder Senior Leader Board on Tuesday. The Board brings together leaders from across all of the UK's emergency services on the issue of mental health and it will promote collaborative working across the nation's emergency services to ensure that frontline workers receive the support they need.

William established the Board in response to a recommendation arising from a research project commissioned by the Royal Foundation in 2018 into the mental health and wellbeing of emergency responders in the UK.

The Duke, who worked as a RAF Search and Rescue pilot for East Anglian Air Ambulance between 2015 and 2017, supported the launch of Our Frontline alongside the Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year. The service provides round-the-clock mental health and bereavement support to frontline staff and key workers.

MORE: The Queen and Prince Philip surprise with move to Sandringham

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William was given a tour of the training college in Belfast

The couple's Royal Foundation announced that it had provided grants to ten leading charities at the heart of mental health and frontline support through a bespoke fund, which was set up as part of the organisation's response to COVID-19.

William and Kate last visited Belfast together in February 2019, where they played football with youngsters, took part in outdoor activities and even pulled pints at Belfast Empire Hall. 

At the college on Wednesday, the Duke recalled meeting PSNI officers along with Kate on a visit to Hillsborough Castle last year, saying: "We were struck then, as I am now, by your steadfast commitment to helping others. You are a testament to the blue light community across our country, and I can't thank you enough for what you do."

"At one point or another, each and every one of us will meet you or one of your colleagues, speak to you, be comforted by you and benefit from the care and protection you provide. Given what we ask of you, we must do all we can to look out for you; and to help you to look out for each other."

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