Royals | Celebrity

Prince William Opens Up About How Working As A First Responder Affected His Mental Health

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Like his mother, the late Princess Diana, Prince William has taken on the role of an advocate for mental health.

Along with his wife Kate Middleton, and his brother Prince Harry, the Duke of Cambridge created the Heads Together campaign in 2016 to drive conversation, raise funds for treatment, and eliminate the stigma around mental illness.

As part of their initiative, the 36-year-old royal recently launched Mental Health at Work, a free nationwide portal for employers and their staff.

HeadsTogether

During his speech at the event in Bristol, William, who has previously worked as an air ambulance pilot, got very candid about his experience as a first responder.

The prince began missions in 2015 with the Royal Air Force's Search and Rescue Force, and later with the East Anglican Air Ambulance. He responded to dozens of call-outs, including accidents and suicide attempts, before completing his final shift in the summer of 2017.

He admitted that he "took a lot home without realizing it," adding, "You see [so] many sad things every day that you think life is like that."

"You’re always dealing with despair and sadness and injury," William continued. "The attrition builds up and you never really have the opportunity to offload anything if you’re not careful."

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In 2016, William discussed one of the calls that had the most impact on him, which happened to be his first ever as an air ambulance pilot. It was a call-out to assist a young man who committed suicide.

This incident is why he and the Duchess of Cambridge put so much importance on mental health.

“In some of my charity work I have come across issues like this before, and coupled with my air ambulance work where my first job was a male suicide, I realized starkly how big a problem we have in this country,” he said at the time. "It was really close to me on that first day and one of the guys told me on average there are five attempted suicides a day."

Now, William and Kate are doing all he can to ensure that the number of people taking their own lives doesn't continue to grow.

Last year, Kate targeted mothers and young children, reminding parents that it's never too late to talk about mental illness. Now, William is encouraging workplaces to be more open to having the discussion.

After the speech, he spoke to a small group of people, including paramedic Dawn Anderson. The father-of-three, confessed that he was "stunned" to discover that only two percent of people are comfortable enough to talk to their workplace's HR department about mental health.

“You’re human and a lot of people forget the battles, you have shut it off to do the job — but ultimately something pierces the armor," he said.

Anderson, 45, revealed that she suffered to episodes of PTSD in 2011, but was too afraid to bring it up to her superiors. She worried she'd be told she couldn't do her job.

She later gushed about how easy it was chatting with William, and praised him for being open about his own struggles.

She told People:

"He feels like a colleague as well as a leader. He is so calm and approachable. He has a real relaxed presence about him. It has been a positive and wonderful experience.

I’ve always held the belief that everybody is susceptible to mental health problems, and I wouldn’t expect even a member of the royal family to be exempt from that.

To hear him admit that just goes to prove how good it is to speak about these things  and how positive that can be. And it goes towards removing hat stigma about mental health and to speaking up to and owning up to it."

Paul Farmer, CEO of U.K. mental health charity Mind, also applauded William and the rest of the royals for their work.

"My firm belief is that all of [the royals] and particularly the Duke — in this context — have done a lot of background work and really thought about this issue and their commitment is 100 percent real," he said. "You heard in his speech talking about his experiences on the frontline. It’s really tough work as an air ambulance and search and rescue pilot. He knows how important this is for people at work. His commitment is constantly enhanced as we go along on this journey."

We're glad to see Prince William open up about such a stigmatized issue, especially when royals are expected to appear perfect in front of the public.

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.