Mental health of frontline workers our priority, say William and Kate

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have pledged to make supporting the mental health of frontline workers battling coronavirus their “top priority” in the months ahead.

William and Kate’s Royal Foundation is formally backing a new initiative from leading charities and organisations to provide round-the-clock mental health support to everyone from teachers and nurses to bus drivers.

The project, called Our Frontline, will be a combination of one-to-one support and online resources for any NHS workers, carers, emergency services personnel and key workers whose psychological wellbeing comes under pressure.

The duke said: “Over the past few weeks, millions of frontline workers across the UK have put their physical and mental health on the line to protect us all during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every day, they confront traumatic situations at the same time as having to contend with their own worries about the risks to themselves and their families.

“That takes a real toll, and as I’ve seen for myself through my work with the air ambulance, without the right support at the right time, the challenges they face will only be greater.

“Catherine and I, together with the Royal Foundation, will do all we can to support Our Frontline. This work will be our top priority for the months ahead.”

The initiative will be available to NHS staff like those working at the NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham, pictured here being opened by William via video link. Credit: Jacob King/PA

Mind, Samaritans, Shout – a text messaging helpline supporting people in crisis – Hospice UK and the Royal Foundation are launching Our Frontline, with William and Kate’s charitable body helping to raise awareness about the new resource.

Frontline staff and key workers can call or text a trained volunteer and access specially developed online resources, tool kits and advice to support their mental health.

The duke has experience of being in the same environment as doctors, nurses and other health workers as he was a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance and has spoken in the past about the mental pressures that came with the job.

In a 2018 interview, William said the experience of attending several traumatic emergencies involving children and having his own children “tipped me over the edge”, but speaking to his crew helped him cope with the “enormous sadness” that he had witnessed.

Later on Wednesday, the duke will chair a roundtable call with representatives from the emergency services sector and the NHS to learn more about the mental health challenges key workers face and how Our Frontline can support them.

Those on the call will include NHS England and NHS Improvement, Faculty of Pre Hospital Care – Royal College of Surgeons, Mind, Lifelines Scotland, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Fire Fighters Charity, Police Care UK and the Ambulance Staff Charity.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Every day, those working in health and social care, 999 services and other vital roles – staff working in supermarkets, pharmacies, transport, catering and cleaning to name a few – face huge challenges to their physical and mental health.

“That’s why it’s so important they can easily access information and contact trained advisers to help promote good mental health, any time of day or night.”