The Duke of Cambridge visited Harcombe House in Devon, one of the residential centres run by The Fire Fighters Charity, to talk about how it helps support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of the fire and rescue service workers who use the facility. The visit took place on 999 Day.
Arriving early in the morning, William received a tour of the facilities which sit on 300 acres in Devon. To help the fire and rescue service workers, Harcombe House includes a pool, sports centre, gym, and en-suite bedrooms and bungalows.
Speaking to retired and actively-serving fire fighters, William said that he understood what they went through with regards to the things they see during their shifts and the need to take care of their own mental health.
“What I always find with the blue light community is that you put the hat and the uniform on day in and day out and you see whole families being torn apart.
“You try and compartmentalise, you try not to bring it back to your own family but after a while one or two jobs catch up with you. If the blue light community can be more open about the things that bother them, then others can as well.
William continued, “We are not robots and, if you are in the emergency services for long enough, you see really distressing things. All that weighs upon you, and if you have something going on at home – family, illness – it all gets on top of you, too many things to keep a lid on.”
Shout UK, the text-based crisis helpline that William, Kate, Harry and Meghan launched in May, announced on Monday that they would be partnering with emergency services to offer a special short code that first responders can text when they need help.
Shout UK tweeted that they will be “providing 24/7 crisis text support to frontline emergency responders across the UK” to those who text BLUELIGHT to 85258.
William also revealed that he wants to go through the training Shout volunteers undertake in order to help those who text needing support.
“I’m aiming to set myself up for it. I really want to do it. Even if I can only do an hour on my laptop, I want to do the training and be able to help.”
Firefighter Dan Bills, who currently works with the London Fire Service, told William that the conversation surrounding mental health has really changed in the last 10 years.
“If you went to an incident that was difficult it was barely spoken about. People don’t hesitate now, there’s no shame now.”
When William’s visit was announced, Dr. Jill Tolfrey, Chief Executive of The Fire Fighters Charity, said that “We are hugely honoured that The Duke of Cambridge has chosen to visit us on Emergency Services Day, to hear more about the work that we do to support the UK’s fire services community and to meet some of the people we have supported over recent months.”
She continued, “We hope that His Royal Highness’s visit will help to highlight the importance of supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of those who work in the fire and rescue service, so they can, in turn, support us all when we need them.”
William unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit and to mark Harcombe House’s refurbishments.
“I hope that, through meeting some of our incredible beneficiaries, His Royal Highness has been able to see the impact of our work for himself,” said The Fire Fighters Charity chair, Andrew Lynch, to Devon Online.
“The people The Duke has met today are living proof of the need for us all to continue to work together in supporting the mental, physical and social wellbeing of those who work to keep the rest of us safe.”