Prince William volunteering for mental health crisis service

Caroline Davies
Photograph: Kensington Palace/Reuters

The Duke of Cambridge has been secretly working as a volunteer supporting people contacting a crisis helpline for mental health support, he has revealed.

Unbeknown to those who have accessed the Shout 85258 text-messaging service, Prince William is one of its 2,000 trained volunteers.

His role emerged during National Volunteers’ Week after he told some of Shout’s volunteers on a video call: “I’m going to share a little secret with you guys; I’m actually on the platform volunteering.”

The Shout helpline was developed by the Cambridges’ Royal Foundation. Like other volunteers, William has been trained to support those who contact it, whatever their crisis, chatting via text message and helping people sort through their feelings by listening, asking questions and empathising.

Kensington Palace was previously reluctant to say whether the royal was a volunteer for fear that Shout might be overloaded by people hoping to discuss their troubles with the future king. But Shout is now said to have geared up to handle an expected increase in demand for the service.

Since it was launched in May last year, more than 330,000 text conversations have taken place between volunteers and people needing mental health support, with around 65% of those texting aged under 25.

The Duchess of Cambridge has also been hands-on on the volunteering front, taking part in “check in and chat” calls with those self-isolating or vulnerable as part of the Royal Voluntary Service’s NHS volunteer responders scheme.

The couple also marked Volunteers’ Week by chatting with the Machynlleth Community Corona Response Group. During the video call, William joked about coronavirus panic buying, asking “Can any of you explain to me why all of us were bulk-buying toilet roll?”

Related: 'I’m stuck in limbo': will the Covid generation of young people face long-term fallout?

More than 120 volunteers in the mid-Wales market town of Machynlleth and surrounding villages go shopping for neighbours, run a telephone helpline, and cook and deliver meals for vulnerable people.

Praising their efforts, William said: “It’s National Volunteers’ Week, and we want to say a big thank-you from both of us. Thank you for all the volunteering you’re doing, thank you for all the time and effort you’re putting in.”

In another video call, to Conscious Youth, an organisation working with young people from mainly black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in West Yorkshire, the couple joked about the challenges of home schooling. William admitted that he had found some of Prince George’s coursework daunting at times. “I struggle with year 2 maths,” he said.

  • Shout is a 24/7 text service for the UK, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis.

  • In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.