Prince William has warned of the hidden dangers to mental health caused by describing frontline NHS staff fighting coronavirus as ‘heroes’.
The Duke of Cambridge, 37, called for ‘preparing for a very different mindset for mental health’ as Britain slowly emerges from a 10-week lockdown.
He said that calling NHS workers fighting Covid-19 ‘heroes’ risked placing a burden on their shoulders and causing them not to ask for mental health support.
Prince William’s intervention was broadcast on the BBC’s The One Show tonight ahead of his new documentary Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health.
The royal was promoting his Heads Up initiative, which aims to raise mental health awareness and encourage football supporters to speak about their problems.
In a pre-recorded statement, the Duke said: ‘We’ve got this global pandemic which is unprecedented. It’s scary, it’s making a lot of people anxious and uncertain.
‘I think the country as a whole is going to need a lot more support when it comes to their mental health. I am still concerned about what I’m hearing from the frontline which is said certain staff still find it difficult in the NHS to talk about their mental health and to be open about it for a lot of reasons.
‘We’ve made the NHS frontline staff rightly heroes, but in doing so we once again give them the burden that we gave our soldiers fighting the war.
‘They should rightly be hailed as superstars and brave and wonderful staff, but I’m very conscious from a mental health point of view that we don’t alienate some of them where they feel that once they have this hero tag they can no longer shake that and therefore they can’t ask for support, they have to be this strong pillar of strength.
‘In actual fact, what we need them to be is examples of positive mental health, doing the job, beating this pandemic, helping and caring for so many people, but also looking after themselves so they come through this in one piece and we’re not having broken NHS staff all over the country.
‘We really have got to be prepared for a very different mindset for mental health going forward. What it looks like, certain hospitals around the country have very good support networks for their staff and mental health, others don’t.’
The Duke added: ‘I want to make sure that we can support the hospitals that are struggling to prioritise their mental health for their staff.’
In his new documentary revealed football has become more important to him as he has got older: ‘You know it’s weird because, I’ve always loved football but I love football more now than I’ve ever loved it before and I don’t know what it is, whether it’s because I’m a parent now and I need football more in my life, I don’t know maybe it is that.’
The Duke of Cambridge also spoke openly about the issues surrounding male suicide, saying: ‘It’s scary and it’s frightening and it’s real.’
Prince William believes the continuing ‘stigma’ around mental health stems from the internalised grief and sadness the country felt after two world wars and people’s desire to forget the experience and ‘get on with life’.
During the programme, he speaks to a grassroots footballer suffering anxiety and reveals how his ageing eyesight helped to overcome nerves.
On a visit to West Bromwich Albion Football Club to meet players past and present who have experienced people close to them committing suicide, the Duke said: ‘It is one of the biggest killers of young men under 45.
‘As pain and grief goes, and I’ve heard this from sadly too many families who have been bereaved by suicide, it is one of the rawest forms of grief because you’re left with so many unanswered questions.
‘Could I have done more, should I have done more, why did they do it?’
Prince William goes on to say: ‘Suicide, it’s scary and it’s frightening and it’s real. Men seem to have a real issue with opening up and being able to talk about it. If we can have a major impact on lowering suicide rates, that’s a success from this campaign.’
The coronavirus outbreak has meant the Heads Up project is on hold due to the disruption to football matches across the country.