Prince William reveals how he faced ‘cliff fall’ which left him feeling ‘quite lonely’ after retiring from his air ambulance pilot job
Prince William has revealed he faced a ‘clifffall’ that left him feeling ‘quite lonely’ after retiring from his job as an air ambulance pilot, with the traumatic aspects of the role taking a toll on his mental health claim.
The Prince of Wales said he ‘misses’ his time in the post he held from 2015 to 2017, adding that he felt ‘isolated’ after taking a step back.
The candid chat about the lasting impact the emergency service role has had on the royal came as he spoke to emergency responders during a visit to the Blue Light Hub in Milton Keynes yesterday.
William spoke of having to ‘arm up’ while working for East Anglian Air Ambulances as he raised concerns about the long-term mental health of frontline emergency workers.
He said: ‘I kept everything and did everything. There were a few times I had a suit of armor on. I took it home with me and it went from there.’
The Prince of Wales said retiring from his job as a pilot was a ‘cliff’ that left him feeling ‘quite lonely’ as the traumatic aspects of the job caught up with him.
Prince William shows the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip around 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 did not appreciate the ‘clifffall’ of stepping down until it actually happened.
“Life catches up with you” after you leave, he said. ‘It can feel quite lonely and isolating.
‘I didn’t realize it was happening at the time. Afterwards you realize it’s not normal. I do worry about people retiring. We need to be better at managing long-term health.’
William also said his time as an air ambulance pilot was much more hands-on with patients than when he was in the RAF, which had a greater impact on his mental well-being.
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.
Hub representatives told William that shared spaces in the facility allow staff from different services to talk to each other about their mental health concerns.
The Prince was shown around the various call centres, vehicle garages and the canteen in the building, where he spoke to staff about the challenges of their roles.
William – whose visit comes during the week of World Mental Health Day – asked respondents if they were getting enough mental health support.
Prince William has spoken of having to be ‘armed’ while working for East Anglian Air Ambulances, as he raised concerns about managing the long-term mental health of emergency staff
Prince William shows his grandparents around the East Anglian Air Ambulances base in Cambridge in July 2016
William – whose visit comes during the week of World Mental Health Day – asked respondents if they were getting enough mental health support
“How about we check on you guys?” he asked one group of police officers, adding: ‘It’s the key to me that you are looked after.’
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 responders about mental health in the workplace.
During the conversation, police officer Willker Da Silva Melo told the prince that there is an expectation that officers should be ‘tough’ and ‘don’t cry.
He continued: ‘Management here are much more aware (of mental health issues). The support is there.’
Associate officer 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 responder Mags Kelly told William her role can be particularly traumatic, especially if a missing person cannot be found.
She said she and her colleagues make sure they ‘do something together after every scream’ so they can talk about what they experienced.
Speaking after the prince’s visit, Dr Williams said working as an emergency worker is a ‘tough world when you’re running towards danger’, and that dealing with trauma can be difficult.
She said, ‘What do you do with that stuff when you get home?
“What if you don’t feel like you can share it with your family?”
Knowing when mental health challenges arise is “what the prince was talking about,” she said.
“The prince said ‘We are on your side’, that’s what people heard today.”