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Prince William thanks dedicated 999 heroes for putting their ‘lives on the line’ in coronavirus pandemic

PRINCE William today thanked 999 heroes for putting their “lives on the line” as he launched a new drive to help the mental health of police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

The Duke of Cambridge, a former air ambulance pilot, described an “extraordinary year” and warned of “uncertain” and “scary” times in the months ahead.

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Speaking in Belfast on Emergency Services Day, Wills hailed the “dedication” of 999 heroes and led calls to recognise “immense challenges” on their physical and mental health.

In a speech at the college today, the 38-year-old said: “Today is 999 day, a day when we come together to celebrate and thank the two million people, just like you in this room, who put their own lives on the line, time and time again to keep the rest of us safe and healthy. 

“This has already been an extraordinary year.

“The months ahead will no doubt be uncertain and at points scary.

“But thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of those of you working across the emergency services and in the NHS, I count myself and others in this country very fortunate.

“Your dedication is not only apparent when we are faced with a global pandemic.

“Each and every day, people from teams across the blue light community are called to the scenes of dreadful incidents.

“Just last week in Birmingham, ambulance and police workers turned up to a horrendous incident and provided critical support to the most vulnerable.

“But as you care for us in our time of need, so too must we ensure that we are there for you when you need it the most.

“We must ensure that you have the right support in place each and every day. “

You care for us in our time of need, so too must we ensure that we are there for you when you need it the most

The Duke spoke of his own experiences working with the Air Ambulance, and the mental strains that came with his role, as he took part in training workshops.

He said: “I know first hand, that even in routine circumstances, those of you on the frontline can face immense challenges that can naturally have a significant impact on both your physical and mental health.  

“Firstly, it’s important that we recognise that.

“And secondly, it’s important that we do all we can to support you through it.”

Donning a mask for the visit, the royal highlighted the need to enhance support services and create a culture where people feel comfortable to talk about what they are going through.

During the tour to the college, His Royal Highness also met five-month-old Irish Red Setter Tara, who has been trained to provide comfort to those suffering from PTSD.

He said: “Yesterday, I convened a meeting of senior leaders including the heads of emergency services and their respective charities from across the UK to discuss this very issue.  

“There has never been a cross-sector mental health forum of this kind, to share learnings and best practice on how best to support staff.

“I was encouraged and heartened about their desire for tangible and lasting change – with new and better collaboration and training, which could certainly draw inspiration from the peer support programme here in Northern Ireland.

“In February of last year, Catherine and I met with a group of your PSNI colleagues at Hillsborough Castle to hear about their experiences and the unique set of policing and safety challenges that they face.

“We were struck then, as I am now, by your steadfast commitment to helping others. You are a testament to the blue light community across our country, and I can’t thank you enough for what you do.

“At one point or another, each and every one of us will meet you or one of your colleagues, speak to you, be comforted by you and benefit from the care and protection you provide.

“Given what we ask of you, we must do all we can to look out for you; and to help you to look out for each other.

“If we can get all of the emergency services under one umbrella, take the learnings from Canada, from the US, from Australia (all on call) then I really do think we can change the system and the culture.”

Wills also spoke with cops at Belfast’s Police College today to mark Emergency Services Day today.

He met police, fire and ambulance chiefs speaking about the impact of Covid-19.

Police officers are taking part in the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) Wellbeing Volunteer Training course, which is an emergency services peer support programme.

The course finds to support colleagues suffering from mental health issues by using shared experiences and understanding of common difficulties faced by those within the sector, a palace spokesman said.

The Duke of Cambridge also met heroes from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and paramedics from Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.
They described mental health experiences dealing with emergencies and discussed getting support from colleagues.

It comes after the Duke held the first meeting of the Emergency Responder Senior Leader Board yesterday.

The board was created to make sure paramedics and other 999 responders get the mental health support they need.

It was set up following a research project commissioned by The Royal Foundation in 2018 into the mental health and wellbeing of emergency responders in the UK. 

The study by King’s College London and the Open University, recommended sharing “better practice”.

The prince also launched Our Frontline during the summer which gives round the clock mental health and bereavement support for emergency service workers.

Meanwhile the Duchess of Cornwall was today shown trials which aim to determine whether dogs can be taught to detect coronavirus.

Camilla, wearing a plastic visor for the first time in public, visited the Medical Detection Dogs charity in Milton Keynes on Wednesday to see the progress being made.

The duchess, who is patron of the charity, is a well-known dog lover and has two Jack Russell terriers called Bluebell and Beth.

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