Prince William has revealed he suffered a “cliff fall” which left him “quite lonely” after retiring from his job as an air ambulance, with the traumatic aspects of the accident taking a toll on his mental health.
The Prince of Wales said he “misses” his time in the post he held from 2015 to 2017, adding that he feels “isolated” after taking a step back.
The candid conversation about the lasting impact the emergency service’s role has had on the King came as he spoke to emergency workers during a visit to the Blue Light Hub in Milton Keynes yesterday.
William spoke of having to “brace up” while working for East Anglian Air Ambulances and raised concerns about the long-term mental health of frontline emergency workers.
He said, “I held everything and did everything.” There were a few times I put on armor. I took it home and it went from there.’
The Prince of Wales said stepping down from his job as a pilot was a “cliff fall” that left him feeling “quite lonely” as the traumatic aspects of the job caught up with him
Prince William gives the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip a tour of the new East Anglian Air Ambulance base in July 2016
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge kisses Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as he says goodbye after visiting the new East Anglian Air Ambulance Base in July 2016
The prince added that he didn’t appreciate the “cliff fall” of resignation until it actually happened.
“Life catches up with you,” he said after you left. “It can feel pretty lonely and isolating.”
“I didn’t realize it was happening at the time.” Afterwards you realize that this isn’t normal. I worry about people retiring. “We need to be better at managing long-term health.”
William also said that during his time as an air ambulance pilot he interacted with patients much more closely than during his time in the RAF, which had a more profound impact on his mental wellbeing.
His comments came during a visit to the Blue Light Hub, the operational base of South Central Ambulance Service, Thames Valley Police and Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service – one of the first purpose-built combined fire, police and ambulance sites in the country.
Collaboration between the three services was at the forefront of the design, which encourages fire, police and ambulance colleagues to work together at every opportunity to ensure they support each other and provide the best possible service to the community.
Center officials told William that shared spaces at the facility allow staff from different services to talk to each other about their mental health issues.
The prince was given a tour of the various call centers, car repair shops and the canteen in the building, where he spoke to employees about the challenges of their jobs.
William – whose visit falls during the week of World Mental Health Day – asked respondents whether they received enough mental health support.
Prince William spoke about having to “brace up” while working for East Anglian Air Ambulances and raised concerns about the long-term mental health of emergency responders
Prince William shows his grandparents around the East Anglian Air Ambulances base in Cambridge in July 2016
William – whose visit falls during the week of World Mental Health Day – asked respondents whether they received enough mental health support
“How are we looking after you?” He asked a group of police officers, adding: “It is important to me that you are taken care of.”
The former broadcaster, journalist and psychologist Dr. Sian Williams, who now works for the NHS at the Center for Anxiety, Stress and Trauma, led a discussion between the prince and emergency workers about mental health in the workplace.
During the discussion, police officer Willker Da Silva Melo told the prince that officers were expected to be “tough” and “not to cry.”
He continued: “Management here is much more aware (of mental health issues). The support is there.’
Her colleague Safiya Rudder said her job can be challenging because police officers are not always seen “as people” or in a “positive light.”
Search and rescue worker Mags Kelly told William that her role can be particularly traumatic, particularly when a missing person cannot be found.
She said she and her colleagues make sure to “do something together after every shouting session” so they can talk about the experience.
After the prince’s visit, Dr. Williams said working as an emergency responder is a “tough world when you’re running toward danger” and that dealing with trauma can be difficult.
She said, “What are you going to do with this stuff when you get home?”
“What if you feel like you can’t share it with your family?”
Knowing when mental health issues arise, “which is what the prince talked about,” she said.
“The prince said ‘We are on your side’, that’s what people heard today.”