Prince William Opens Up About Coming Face-to-Face with Male Suicide During Meeting with First Responders
Prince William shared his own experience of dealing with male suicide when he met with British emergency service workers who find themselves tackling the issue far too often.
William told a small group of workers, including a lifeboat volunteer, a fireman and a marine policeman, that one of his first calls in his job at East Anglia’s air ambulance service was to a young man who had committed suicide.
“He is concerned that men sometimes consider themselves too strong to ask for help,” a palace spokeswoman tells PEOPLE. “He wants to see what he can do to help encourage men to ask for help. ”
During another meeting, William was also told that the emergency workers confronted the issue just one night earlier when crews from the RNLI volunteer lifeboat on the Thames River were called to three potential suicides. Thankfully, none resulted in deaths.
In one of the meetings, the Prince asked why men don’t talk about their issues. “It’s a macho world. A lot of men struggle with that,” he was told in a video clip Kensington Palace shared on its Twitter page.
William also said that although the police and other emergency service workers are used to talking things through among their crews, others may not be.
“You go through it together. It’s how we then relate to what we do to the outside world, to members of the public who are isolated and alone, how they, with their mates, can talk about it and deal with it. It becomes a more normal thing to listen to each other and share with each other,” the prince was told.
William, wife Princess Kate and brother Prince Harry have been highlighting mental health issues in recent months. On Monday, the group will launch their joint Heads Together partnership with charities in the field.
• Want to keep up with the latest royals coverage? Click here to subscribe to the Royals Newsletter.
On Thursday morning, William joined a task force of emergency services brought together by the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), which is also one of the partners in Heads Together.
It was the first meeting of the coalition meant to pull together the expertise of those who deal with the impact of male suicide, which accounts for 76 percent of all suicides. The coalition aims to develop a resource to equip all men with an understanding of how to identify and support other men who are down, depressed or suicidal.
“Men are not reaching out for the help in the same way, or don’t want to or can’t. The coalition wants to find out why that’s happening, why are guys finding it difficult to seek support,” CALM spokeswoman Rachel Stephenson tells PEOPLE.
VIDEO: Prince William Fulfills His Promise to Be Interviewed by a Former Homeless Woman
After the initial meeting, William then visited a lifeboat station at Tower Bridge, along the Thames. From their training, those emergency workers are often in the right place to talk people back from the brink. They also find themselves dealing with the trauma of the aftermath of suicide – such as talking with the families of those affected and supporting other emergency workers who may be overwhelmed and affected by what they have seen.
Stephenson, adds, “The Duke has some experience of some of the things that first-time responders see day-to-day.”
She adds, “We have to understand why men are not talking or not reaching out for help. Something has to be done, and the Duke is really positive about doing what he can to put this in the spotlight.
“This is something that the Duke is personally committed to,” she continues. “It was lovely to see him talking with first-time responders like the RNLI volunteers and the police about their shared experiences.”
Jane Powell, CEO of CALM, said in a statement, “Suicide is frequently bracketed as the actions of the ‘mentally ill.’ However, from our helpline we know that men who are suicidal are often tackling the kinds of life problems, which can affect any of us, male or female, although it’s damned hard for men to admit to needing help or even find it.
“With the support of these male-dominated industries who know only too well the impact of suicide, we’re determined to normalize getting men help,” the statement continued.
Earlier this year, William, and Kate spent a morning with male suicide campaigner Johnny Benjamin.
Benjamin, who was stopped from jumping off a bridge by a stranger, welcomed the coalition, adding, “There is a real need for a resource to help men feel able to offer help, whether that’s a stranger on a bridge or your best mate.”