The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge urged frontline workers to take time to care for themselves as the UK experiences its third wave of the coronavirus.
In their first joint engagement of 2021, Prince William and Kate spoke to emergency responders and representatives from Hospice UK's Just "B" counselling and bereavement support line by video link.
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In a call that took place on Wednesday, the Cambridges heard how the support line is providing crucial mental health support for frontline workers, as mortality rates in both hospitals and community have community have risen significantly across the past year as a result of COVID-19.
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The Duke, 38, said: "This is an unprecedented time we are all facing. I think that really needs to be nailed home right now is that this is like nothing before that anyone has ever seen, particularly this third wave we are going through right now.
"People need to understand how you are normal human beings doing a brilliant job in a very, very difficult time and I hope this service gives people the outlet that they need.
"I fear, like you said, you're all so busy caring for everyone else that you won't take enough time to care for yourselves and we won't see the impacts for quite some time."
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William and Kate urged frontline workers to take time to care for themselves
The Duchess of Cambridge, 39, asked the emergency responders what more can be done to convince their colleagues of the importance of prioritising themselves for help with mental health.
"Never has there been a more important time to have services like this out there, so I am so glad they are being used as well," Kate added.
Just ‘B’ counsellors Tony Collins and Caroline Francis spoke to the Duke and Duchess about the toll that the pandemic is having on frontline staff, with service users often citing exhaustion and the relentless nature of the crisis as their reasons for calling.
William and Kate spoke with emergency responders and counsellors
Caroline told the royal couple: "A lot of the time, I think they forget to think about themselves and their self-care that they need, and are able to look in on themselves and think 'gosh, I'm not coping as well as I think I am.'
"And yes, we have our own colleagues, and our family and close friends on the end of the phone.
"But I think there's something about ringing the call line and being able to express how you're feeling without worrying about burdening someone you know."
During the emotional call, NHS staff and emergency responders spoke about their personal experiences with mental health, and how services such as Just 'B' have allowed them to cope better and begin to come to terms with their grief.
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The Cambridges showed their support for Clap For Carers last year
William drew on his own previous experiences, revealing that seeing people die when he served as a pilot for East Anglian Air Ambulance left him traumatised and feeling the world was a "darker, blacker place." He said he "really worries" about the impact on frontline workers' lives at seeing "such high levels of sadness, trauma and death."
The Cambridges have thrown their support behind the NHS since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, having launched Our Frontline to provide mental health support for key workers last April.
William and Kate along with their three children, Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, six, and two-year-old Prince Louis, were also pictured proudly clapping on their doorstep at their Norfolk home Anmer Hall during the Clap For Carers campaign.
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The couple met staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital on their royal train tour in December
Providing financial support through its COVID-19 Response Fund, William and Kate's Royal Foundation has partnered with NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care to help fund Hospice UK's Just 'B' support line, helping to make vital resources available when they are needed most to NHS staff, social care workers, carers and all emergency services personnel.
The Royal Foundation's support for Hospice UK's Just 'B' service, was announced in July 2020 as part of its COVID-19 Response Fund, a series of grants made to leading mental health charities to increase their capacity for helpline and chat services to meet rising demands as a consequence of the pandemic.
The grants have built upon and expanded the support being offered by Our Frontline, a collaborative initiative which provides free, round the clock resources for all frontline staff and key workers.
The Just 'B' counselling and trauma helpline can be accessed daily between 8am and 8pm at 0300 303 4434
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