Prince William warns calling NHS staff heroes could harm their mental health

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
William said people should be cautious about the language used. (Getty Images)

Prince William has urged people to be careful in the language used to speak about NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic, to safeguard their mental health.

William, 37, said NHS staff have been rightly labelled heroes, but he said he feared they might feel they can’t reach out for help when they need it.

His comments came as the nation prepared to clap for carers for the last time, with the founder of the grassroots movement calling for an end to the weekly applause.

And the duke spoke in his documentary on mental health, filmed with footballers and football fans across the UK.

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William is using football to get more people to speak about mental health. (Getty Images)

In a video clip, shown on the BBC’s One Show, the duke said: “We made the NHS frontline staff, rightly, heroes.

“But in doing so, we once again, give them the burden that we gave our soldiers fighting in the war, where everyone was so grateful and wanted to show their appreciation as to their fighting for their freedoms and everything.

“And I think we’ve got to be very careful with the language that we use.

“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, when 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 that they come through this in one piece and we’re not having broken NHS staff all over the country.”

Read more: Prince William echoes parents' worries as he says 'children don't understand social distancing'

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spent the last few weeks working from home, making calls to staff in the NHS and care homes around the country.

They have made the mental health of NHS staff and key workers the focus of their work, launching Our Frontline, an initiative which provides access to support 24 hours a day.

The duke also called for wider mental health support, as the country battles the pandemic, saying it had left many “anxious and uncertain”.

Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health will be broadcast on Thursday at 8.05pm on BBC One.