The royal is partnering with leading emergency services organizations to help crews and their families

By Simon Perry
September 09, 2019 10:05 AM
Prince William
Ben Birchall - WPA Pool/Getty

Former air ambulance pilot Prince William showed his support for first responders and the stresses they face in their jobs when he visited a group of firefighters on Monday.

The royal was on hand to launch a texting service through Crisis Text Line in the U.K. that’s aimed directly at frontline responders who often need extra support as they face stressful situations every day.

William’s debuted his own crisis texting service— an initiative called Shout — in May alongside Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Now he is partnering with leading emergency services organizations to help crews and their families.

The prince, 37, visited a residential center in Devon, rural south west England, run by The Fire Fighters Charity. Harcombe House provides physical and mental health support to operational and retired members of the U.K.’s fire and rescue services and their dependents.

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Harcombe House includes dedicated therapy rooms and areas to better facilitate support for its beneficiaries — particularly those dealing with mental health issues. During his visit, William met families taking part in an art therapy session and heard from others who have been supported by the charity. The group told the royal about the challenges they have faced and the impact of the support they have received at the center.

Prince William poses for a group photo during a visit to the Fire Fighters Charity's Harcombe House center
Ben Birchall - WPA Pool/Getty

His Royal Highness also visited the center’s gym, which features a range of equipment used to explore safe and varied ways of increasing individuals’ physical health. The Duke of Cambridge also met service users taking part in physical rehabilitation therapies, including an anti-gravity treadmill which allows those with lower limb injuries to exercise freely without putting their full weight on their feet.

With the new texting service, members of frontline emergency service communities, retired or serving, and their families can text BLUELIGHT to 85258 to be connected to a trained and supervised crisis volunteer.

Prince William alongside Joseph Dowden, 6, from Surrey, left, and Oliver Myers, 10, from Leeds, during a visit to the Fire Fighters Charity's Harcombe House
Ben Birchall - WPA Pool/Getty
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William opened up about his most “daunting incidents” as an air ambulance pilot before he retired in 2017.

“As a team, we travel to some very daunting incidents and we have been though some incredibly tough times together, witnessing some appalling tragedies,” he wrote. “One of the first call outs I made was to a young man who had [died by] suicide; it was an incredibly tough day and had a profound effect on all of us, not least in my determination now to draw attention to this issue.”

Victoria Hornby, CEO of Shout, said in a statement, “Members of our emergency responder community regularly walk towards traumatic and high stress situations on our behalf and they deserve the very best support for maintaining their mental fitness.

“We want to encourage people to reach for help at an early stage without fear or shame, and to show what a positive step this can be by providing a safe space to listen without judgement.”

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