One or two jobs catch you out, admits William on visit to Fire Fighters Charity

The Duke of Cambridge has spoken of the daily pressures that emergency service workers face – saying “one or two jobs catch you out”.

William made the comments as it was announced that his Shout text messaging helpline will provide support to frontline emergency responders.

The duke was visiting the Fire Fighters Charity’s centre at Harcombe House in Chudleigh, South Devon, to mark Emergency Services Day, and met members of the emergency services community as well as Shout volunteers.

The Duke of Cambridge visit to Harcombe House
The Duke of Cambridge visit to Harcombe House

During the tour, William spoke with wheelchair user Richard Baldwin, a retired Berkshire firefighter, and London firefighter Dan Bills about the pressures emergency workers face.

“What I always find with the blue light community is that you put the hat and the uniform on and you see whole families being torn apart,” said the duke, who is a former air ambulance pilot.

“You try and decompartmentalise, and one or two jobs catch you out.

“If the blue light community can be more open about the things that bother them, then others can as well.

“We are not robots and, if you are in the emergency services for long enough, you see really distressful 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.”

During the visit, the duke was taken on a tour of the newly refurbished centre and chatted with people in the gym, including John Couzins, who has a lower limb injury and was using an anti-gravity treadmill.

The Duke of Cambridge visit to Harcombe House
The Duke of Cambridge visit to Harcombe House

Before leaving, William unveiled a plaque to mark his visit.

Speaking after the visit, Mr Baldwin, 70, who lives in Tiverton, praised the work of the Fire Fighters Charity.

“They have been absolutely fantastic to me,” he said.

“I developed PTSD after a few horrific things and then my legs came off. The charity has been absolutely life-saving – the only word I can describe.

“Phenomenal charity and phenomenal people – they just care.”

Mr Baldwin, who showed the duke his double amputations, added: “What an honour to meet him today.

“Not often that you get to show your legs off to the future King of England.”

Shout was launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May, and provides a confidential 24/7 text service which connects people experiencing problems – from suicidal thoughts and relationship issues to bullying – with trained volunteers who can provide help.

Now members of the emergency services community, retired or serving, and their families can text BLUELIGHT to 85258 and be connected to a trained and supervised volunteer.

The Duke of Cambridge visit to Harcombe House
The Duke of Cambridge visit to Harcombe House

Dr Jill Tolfrey, chief executive of the Fire Fighters Charity, said: “Supporting the mental health and well-being of the fire and rescue services community is central to our ambitions as a charity.

“So we are delighted to support an initiative that complements our own work and shares our desire to make mental health support available and accessible to as many people in need as possible.”

The initiative aims to provide an additional layer of support to the help already provided by emergency services charities and organisations backing the project, who range from the National Crime Agency and London Fire Brigade to the Ambulance Staff Charity, Police Care UK and the Fire Fighters Charity.