The Duke of Cambridge has been in frequent contact with health workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic. In a series of video calls with hospital staff and care workers, he and his wife Kate have heard about the pressures NHS staff face and the toll this is taking on their mental wellbeing. While it was only natural to praise health workers, using the label “hero” could deter them from seeking help when they needed it, William claimed.
The Duke said that NHS staff should “rightly be hailed as superstars”, but only if it did not make them feel they “have to be this strong pillar of strength”.
In a short clip shown on BBC’s The One Show, Prince William said: “We made the NHS frontline staff, rightly, heroes.
“But in doing so, we once again, give them the burden that we gave our soldiers fighting in the war, where everyone was so grateful and wanted to show their appreciation as to their fighting for their freedoms and everything.
“And I think we’ve got to be very careful with the language that we use.
“They should rightly be hailed as superstars, and brave, and wonderful staff.
“But I’m very conscious from a mental health point of view that we don’t alienate some of them.
“Where they feel that once they have this hero tag, they can no longer shake that, and therefore they can’t ask for support, they have to be this strong pillar of strength, when in actual fact what we need them to be is examples of positive mental health.
“Doing the job, beating this pandemic, helping and caring for so many people, but also looking after themselves so that they come through this in one piece and we’re not having broken NHS staff all over the country.”
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The charity wants in its own words “to encourage more men to feel comfortable talking about their mental health and feel able to support their friends and families through difficult times”.
As president of the Football Association, the Duke of Cambridge is heavily involved in the project.
In a conversation during the programme, the Duke says: “You can’t be ashamed of your mental health.
“You’ve got to be able to look at it in the eye and say ‘I’m gonna deal with it’.
“Here we go. It’s ok not to be ok.”
Last August, the Duke used his official role within the FA to launch the Heads Up Campaign.
At the time, he said: “We are here today to take a big step in shattering this silence. We are going to use one of the most powerful, unifying forces in our society – football – to start the biggest ever conversation on mental health.”
He added: “We wouldn’t think twice to ask a mate how he was doing after he broke an arm or an ankle.
“We wouldn’t hesitate to talk about our routine at the gym, or even our need to make it a bit more regular.
“But when it comes to our mental health, we – and, by we, I mean men in particular – often have nothing to say at all.
“The consequences of this silence – confusion, stigma, and even shame – have reached a crisis point in the UK.”