Prince William Says First Responders' Mental Health Is 'More Important Than Ever'

Simon Perry
·3 min read

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Prince William

Prince William has lived through his own secret coronavirus scare, and he's continuing to shine a light on the demands that the pandemic has placed on emergency workers.

William, 38, recognized how the COVID-19 crisis has “presented a unique challenge for all emergency responders” as he awarded a special award for a firefighter on Wednesday.

“[They] have had to adapt to new ways of working whilst continuing to save lives and help those in need, day-in-day-out. This is what makes the achievements that we are celebrating tonight all the more extraordinary,” he said at the virtual ceremony for the Fire Fighter’s Charity Spirit of Fire Awards.

The Fire Fighters Charity/ Youtube Prince William

“It is more important than ever that those on the frontline know where they can turn to for support. The work of The Fire Fighters Charity, and all of the organizations who support our blue light services, is central to ensuring the longterm health and wellbeing of our emergency responders," he continued.

He said he was “delighted” to announce the winner of the Spirit of Fire Special Recognition Award for Excellence in the Field of Mental Health to Shilla Patel.

The Fire Fighters Charity/ Youtube Prince William

Earlier this year, as the pandemic struck, William and his wife Kate Middleton launched their own support network for blue light responders called Our Frontline and they have frequently spoken of the stresses faced by emergency workers.

Patel works as an Inclusion Manager at London Fire Brigade, launched United Minds — the Brigade’s first mental health support network — in March 2019 to break stigma and help staff to access support when they need it.

“Aiming to reduce stigma and help staff access support, United Minds has gone from strength to strength under Shilla’s leadership, and now has over 200 members,” William added.

PA Images Prince William and Kate Middleton

In a video telling her story, Patel says she has lived with anxiety and depression for “pretty much all my life.” But it was only when she spoke to the Firefighters’ Charity that she got help.

“Even as inclusion manager, I was telling people they needed to be brave and open. But I continued to wear my many different masks,” she said. When she contacted the charity she became “a lot more open about my own mental health. And was able to be open and honest.”

WPA-Rota/Press Association Images Prince William

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Dr. Jill Tolfrey, the Fire Fighters Charity Chief Executive, said in a statement, “Spirit of Fire is always a special occasion and this year, as we were unable to celebrate in person, I hope that marking the achievements of our incredible and very deserving supporters online – with the help of The Duke and our celebrity guests – provided a ray of sunshine for the fire services community at this difficult time. On behalf of the whole Charity, my congratulations and immense gratitude go to all our nominees and winners.”