The Duke of Cambridge has spoken candidly about how seeing people die when he was an air ambulance pilot left him traumatised ‘for weeks on end’ and feeling the world was a ‘darker, blacker place’.
Drawing on his own experiences speaking to front line workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Prince William, 38, admitted his work regularly affected his ‘family life’ and said he ‘really worries’ about the impact on staff now at seeing ‘such high levels of sadness, trauma and death.’
The royal, who worked alongside doctors and paramedics providing emergency medical treatment at the East Anglian Air Ambulance, spoke out in a video call conversation to front line workers and counsellors about bereavement support.
William, who was joined on the call by his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, 39, who put on a stylish display in a grey blazer with black collar detail, said: ‘Some of it I noticed from my previous spell flying with the air ambulance with the team.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge heard about the crucial mental health support being provided for frontline workers during the pandemic by Hospice UK’s Just ‘B’ counselling and bereavement support line on Wednesday
Pictured, top row (L-R): – Carly Kennard, Jules Lockett, Conal Devitt and Manal Sadik. Middle row (L-R): – Phil Spencer, Tony Collins and Caroline Francis
‘When you see so much death and so much bereavement it does impact how you see the world. It is very interesting what you said about being able to see things in a different light.
‘I think you said about thinking everyone around you is going to die, that is what really worries me about the front line staff at the moment.
‘That you are so under the cosh at the moment and so pressurised and you’re seeing such high levels of sadness, trauma, death, that it impacts your own life and your own family life because it is always there.
‘You’re so drawn into it, which everyone is, it is only natural that would happen.
‘But that’s what I think a lot of the public don’t understand, that when you’re surrounded by that level of intense trauma and sadness and bereavement.
‘It really does, it stays with you, at home it stays with you for weeks on end, doesn’t it, and you see the world in a much more, slightly depressed, darker, blacker place.’
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were last seen with their children attending a special pantomime performance at London’s Palladium Theatre in December (pictured)
A general view of the front of Anmer Hall on the Sandringham Estate on January 13, 2013 in King’s Lynn
The royal couple both stressed it is vital that frontline personnel – including the police, who suffer from the stigma of having to enforce lockdown restrictions – reach out for support at this critical time and that the stigma surrounding seeking help for their mental health must end.
Prince William went on: ‘This is an unprecedented time we are all facing. I think that really needs to be nailed home right now is that this is like nothing before that anyone has ever seen, particularly this third wave we are going through right now.
‘People need to understand how you are normal human beings doing a brilliant job in a very, very difficult time and I hope this service gives people the outlet that they need.
‘I fear, like you said, you’re all so busy caring for everyone else that you wont take enough time to care for yourselves and we won’t see the impacts for quite some time.’
William spoke to Phil Spencer, wellbeing Inspector of Cleveland Police, who told the royal couple about the frustration that many police felt at being on the sharp end of the pandemic, having hand out fines to people breaking stringent lockdown regulations.
He said: ‘Emergency service work is difficult at the best of times, policing is really difficult at the best off times, but throw the pandemic into it….
‘We’re all the same and don’t get me wrong, and the NHS rightly so are absolute heroes and my heart goes out to London Ambulance Service and the rest of them, but we [the police service] are seen as the villains sometimes – again can’t do right for doing wrong – having to put the fines out and lay down the law.’
The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) has said her thoughts are with workers on the front line of the pandemic as she celebrates a ‘very different’ birthday. Pictured, on royal train tour in December
He warned: ‘Perhaps further down the line when all this is gone we’re going to have some broken police officers and emergency services staff.
‘Because we are too busy focusing on protecting the most vulnerable people in communities but hand on heart, I think our service are the most vulnerable people right now and it is horrible to see. We need so much help.’
William replied: ‘This is an unprecedented time you are all facing. This is like nothing before that people have ever seen, particularly this third wave we are going through right now.
‘People need to understand how you are normal people doing a brilliant job in a very difficult time. You are all so busy caring for everyone else that you won’t take time to care for yourself.’
The Duchess of Cambridge also questioned the front-line workers on what more could be done to convince their colleagues of the importance of prioritising themselves for help with mental health.
Kate said: ‘Never has there been a more important time to have services like this out there, so I am so glad they are being used as well.’
The call on Wednesday also highlighted how William and Kate’s Royal Foundation was helping to provide financial support through its Covid-19 Response Fund.
The foundation has partnered with NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care to help fund Hospice UK’s Just ‘B’ support line, which supports NHS staff, social care workers, carers and all emergency services personnel.