William reveals he is secret helpline volunteer


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Media captionThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marked Volunteers week by speaking to people across the country

The Duke of Cambridge has revealed he has been anonymously counselling people during lockdown.

He has been volunteering at Shout 85258, which offers support via text message to people in personal crisis.

Prince William said he had been answering messages after being trained by the mental health charity.

Last month he told fellow volunteers in a video call: “I’m going to share a little secret with you guys, but I’m actually on the platform volunteering.”

Kensington Palace announced the prince’s involvement to mark Volunteers Week, which ends on Sunday.

Those texting the round-the-clock service would not know they are talking to a member of the Royal Family – like Shout’s 2,000 volunteers, William would use a pseudonym on the platform.

The Cambridges and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex helped to launch Shout 85258 last year – investing £3m in the service via their Royal Foundation.

In a little over a year since then, more than 300,000 text conversations have been had on the service.

Around 65% of those texting are aged under 25, the charity said, with many messengers seeking mental health support.

What do Shout volunteers do?

By BBC journalist and Shout volunteer Tony Smith

Training as a crisis volunteer at Shout puts William in the frontline of services for young people in distress – and it’s a tough role.

CVs, as they’re known, undertake special training to support those in crisis. On the Shout platform they’ll encounter, and be tasked with helping, those in very real distress.

Some texters are experiencing depression or panic attacks, others are self-harming. A large proportion say they feel suicidal.

The job of the CV is to lead that texter to a cool, calm place where they may begin to establish solutions. Sometimes they’ll just need to build resilience, with support from friends or family. In others, they’ll be guided toward charities or NHS mental health support.

It’s not unusual for a texter to be about to take his or her own life. This can lead to what Shout call an ‘Active Rescue’ – the CV will continue gently talking to the texter while the emergency services are called in by a supervisor.

Whether it be talking someone down from a bridge, or persuading them to put away that bottle of pills, these conversations can be gruelling and rewarding in equal measure. The fact that the second in line to the throne is now routinely helping people in such desperate situations is hugely significant – it gives Prince William a unique perspective on what young people in crisis may be going through.

Catherine’s calls

The Duchess of Cambridge has also been calling those who are self-isolating or vulnerable, as part of the Royal Voluntary Service’s NHS Volunteer Responders scheme.

More than 750,000 people signed up to be part of the scheme’s “volunteer army” after it launched in April, but some later expressed frustration at not having been used.

Last week, the duchess thanked others who had signed up to help the scheme, calling them “the backbone of our country”.

The Cambridges marked Volunteers Week by holding video calls with those helping charities in England and Wales.

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PA Media

Image caption

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and volunteers at Conscious Youth during a video call

Among them were those working at Conscious Youth, which helps young people from mainly black and other ethnic minority backgrounds in West Yorkshire.

During the call, Prince William joked about home-schooling his six-year-old son Prince George, saying: “I struggle with Year 2 maths.”

The Cambridges also spoke to a group of neighbours in mid-Wales who have been offering help with shopping, cooking and deliveries during lockdown.

The prince told the 120 volunteers they had offered “a lifeline” to people in their community.

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