While hailing health care staff as “superstars,” the duke also voiced support for workers who may feel like they can’t ask for help.
In recent weeks, we have seen the Duke of Cambridge focus on the efforts being made by frontline workers across the U.K. and around the world during the COVID-19 crisis. In an upcoming documentary about men’s mental health, he’s making sure that the conversation around health workers continues.
During the May 28 BBC documentary Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health, the duke shares his concerns about how difficult medical staff are finding things while working during the pandemic. “We made the [National Health Service] frontline staff, rightly, heroes,” he says. “But in doing so, we once again, give them the burden that we gave our soldiers fighting in the war, where everyone was so grateful and wanted to show their appreciation as to their fighting for their freedoms and everything. And I think we’ve got to be very careful with the language that we use. They should rightly be hailed as superstars, and brave, and wonderful staff, but I’m very conscious from a mental health point of view that we don’t alienate some of them.”
He continues, “Where they feel that once they have this hero tag, they can no longer shake that, and therefore, they can’t ask for support, they have to be this strong pillar of strength, when [in] actual fact, what we need them to be is examples of positive mental health, doing the job, beating this pandemic, helping and caring for so many people, but also looking after themselves so that they come through this in one piece and we’re not having broken NHS staff all over the country.”
With the U.K. still seeing more than 200 coronavirus deaths a day, Prince William spoke about the upcoming need the country, and the world, will soon have for increased mental health support. “We have this global pandemic, which is unprecedented, it’s scary, it’s making a lot of people anxious and uncertain,” he says. “I think the country as a whole is going to need a lot more support when it comes to their mental health. … It’s going to reach so many people in so many different ways that I think we really have got to be prepared for a very different mindset for mental health going forward.”
Elsewhere in the one-off documentary, which sees William meet soccer players, fans, and managers as part of the #HeadsUP mental health initiative, the prince reveals that his imperfect eyesight has been an advantage when it comes to his own nerves and public speaking. “Certain days, especially certain speeches as well when I was growing up, you definitely get a bit of anxiety,” he admitted in a preview clip released on Wednesday. “My eyesight started to tail off a little bit as I got older, and I didn’t used to wear contacts when I was working, so actually when I gave speeches I couldn’t see anyone’s face. And it helps, because it’s just a blur of faces and because you can’t see anyone looking at you—I can see enough to read the paper and stuff like that—but I couldn’t actually see the whole room. And actually that really helps with my anxiety.”
Tonight’s BBC One documentary will also show William getting candid about his own mental health, including speaking about losing his mother and adjusting to life as a father. “Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is,” he says. “I think when you’ve been through something traumatic in life … my mother dying when I was younger, the emotions come back, in leaps and bounds. … Me and Catherine particularly, we support each other, and we go through those moments together, and we kind of evolve and learn together.”