The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are "really engaging and caring" behind-the-scenes, one charity volunteer has revealed to HELLO! Prince William and Kate celebrated the first anniversary of Shout85258, the UK's first 24/7 crisis text line, during a Zoom call with volunteers last week. Alexis Caught, 30, was among the volunteers on the call with the Cambridges and was the first person to do a special takeover on Kensington Royal's Instagram stories last Saturday, where he answered questions about Shout and mental health.
WATCH: William and Kate celebrate Shout's first anniversary during Zoom call
"I think the thing that really surprised me is actually how much the Duke and Duchess genuinely care because when there aren't press around or an audience, they're actually really engaging and asking very smart questions, which bely that they are doing their research. I think for people of their stature to actually be shining a light on mental health really helps to fight against the stigma and the misconception and the misperception that 'it's all in your head, it's a load of nonsense, you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,'" Alexis tells HELLO!
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Alexis (top, middle) was among the volunteers to speak to William and Kate
The writer, rugby player and co-host of the Qmmunity podcast has been a supporter of Shout since he contributed to Scarlett Curtis' book It's Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies), about mental health. Having spoken on the LGBTQ+ panel event at Shout's November Volunteer Event in November 2019, Alexis was introduced to Prince William and Kate as part of a meet and greet. He said: "When I met the Duke and Duchess for the first time, our conversation was around changes for the LGBTQ+ community and they were very aware that rates of hate crime had started to rocket again and so they were asking smart questions about what actually needs to be done to try and stop this reverse that we're seeing."
Around 40 per cent of Shout's texters, who are under 25 years old, identify as LGBTQ+ and almost two thirds "felt more comfortable texting than talking about private things", and contacted the service "to speak to someone that didn’t know them". The 1,800 trained crisis volunteers have had more than 300,000 text conversations since the service launched and the text message service has seen an increase in demand since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March 2020.
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William and Kate at Shout's crisis volunteer event in November 2019
Alexis became a crisis volunteer last month and has since taken many conversations with people in crisis, having reached level 4. He tells HELLO!: "Lockdown has taken away people's regular coping mechanisms and strategies, you could go to the gym, see your friends, check in with your family, go to the cinema or the theatre and do something fun to pick yourself back up."
Shout's crisis volunteers use empathetic and effective listening techniques to empower texters to problem solve for themselves and they can also provide signposting to services that provide further help and support for longer-term mental health experiences.
Kate and William thanked volunteers for their work during the call
On his Kensington Royal Instagram takeover, Alexis said it was "a real surprise" to be asked to do it, adding that he received some great questions from members of the public who wanted to engage with the topic of mental health.
Alexis tells HELLO! that working as a Shout crisis volunteer has helped him in his own life too: "Being part of the Shout community is phenomenal because the skills you learn as part of the training are incredibly valuable, it's so much about active listening, problem solving and empowering other people to find those solutions as well. It's made me a better friend, probably a better family member, and a better flatmate."
For more information, visit giveusashout.org/