The royal family is supporting a new initiative — and it’s one that’s close to their hearts.
Prince William and Kate Middleton, along with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (who recently welcomed her first child!) are launching Shout, an affiliate of Crisis Text Line in the U.K. that offers free, confidential mental health support via text.
On Thursday, William, 36, released a video message in partnership with Crisis Text Line, encouraging people across the United Kingdom to apply to become crisis volunteers for Shout.
Crisis Text Line has been in the United States for over five years and has processed 100 million messages with the help of 5,000 trained crisis volunteers since launching. Nancy Lublin, the CEO and founder of Crisis Text Line explains to PEOPLE why the royal family was a natural partner to bring the initiative to the U.K.
“They’re really the first celebrities around the world to really take on mental health,” Lublin says. “It’s been so personal and they’ve done such a fantastic job elevating the issue and reducing stigma.”
Lublin shares that she spoke with the “charming” Prince William at a dinner in November of 2016, where she first talked to him about the initiative.
“They’ve visited our offices multiple times in the U.K., they’ve met with volunteers — which is so special,” Lublin says. “They’ve really been very hands-on.”
“I think it’s so powerful,” she adds. “We really couldn’t ask for better spokespeople and champions. Mental health is the epidemic of this generation.”
“We are incredibly excited to be launching this service, knowing it has the potential to reach thousands of vulnerable people every day,” the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said in a statement. “Over the last few months Shout has started working quietly behind the scenes. We have all been able to see the service working up close and are so excited for its future.”
The partnership is the latest in a series of mental health initiatives for the royal family.
“I truly believe that good mental health — mental fitness — is the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self,” Harry said in an announcement on the @sussexroyal Instagram page.
The documentaries mark the next stage in Harry’s long-standing work on issues and initiatives regarding mental health. He has previously opened up about his own struggles with grief following his mother’s death.
The former Army captain has also become a world-leading advocate for those who silently suffer – especially in the military and among veterans. In 2016, he teamed with William and Kate to create the Heads Together initiative encouraging more people to talk about the challenges they face.
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Kate, for her part, has been supporting the Anna Freud National Centre for Families and Children, a new London center that unites experts, helpers and families looking for aid with mental health issues. Last week, the 37-year-old toured the new facilities.
“[Kate] was very pleased with the building,” Peter Fonagy, chief executive of Anna Freud Center, told PEOPLE. “She had been with us along the journey, and she was both pleased for us and relieved that it has worked and that the building is nice. It is a friendly building that you feel comfortable in and not an institution. Somewhere people can come and feel at home.”
It is a fruition of a lot of work and support from Kate — including a fundraising gala that “materially helped” bring the project to a conclusion.
“She clearly speaks for the children and families who face mental health challenges. She gives them a voice and they feel empowered,” Fonagy says.
In January, William opened up about his own mental health at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“I think now, there’s a generation finally realizing that this is not normal, we should talk about it, we should get over [the stigma],” he said.
He added, “We’ve got to start tackling it now so that our children and grandchildren don’t have to go through this process, and they can be a lot more open about it.”
If you are in crisis, text PEOPLEMAG to 741741 for confidential, free support from Crisis Text Line.