Today Prince William and Kate attended an event honouring volunteers for Shout UK, the nation’s first 24/7 crisis text messaging service.
Supported by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex under the Heads Together initiative, a nationwide network of trained volunteers ensures help is always available for people in crisis. It is now marking six months of helping people via text and online chat.
Upon arrival Prince William and Kate were greeted by a small group of volunteers and administrators.
They then mingled with volunteers, during which Prince William could be heard asking tough questions of Shout’s volunteers. “Do you think things like Instagram and other companies are doing enough now?”
In the past the Duke has been critical of social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook for not being proactive enough in addressing cyber bullying and other potentially harmful issues.
Nancy Lublin, co-founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line spoke to the press about the royal visit. “They are so lovely. It’s amazing how much [William] knows about the service.” The Duke of Cambridge, said Lublin, was proud of the service being ‘one of those example of technology being good,’ since so often coverage is negative.
“And I said, ‘I like to describe it as a light sabre — a light sabre can be blue and the Jedis wield it for good things, or it can be red and be wielded for bad things,’ ” Lublin said. “The Duchess said she really liked that analogy.”
In another conversation William discusses “smashing the stigma” around mental health. This is an oft-used phrase Prince William uses when talking about obstacles to seeking counselling and support.
Shout UK is staffed entirely by volunteers with specialised training in crisis counselling, which takes roughly six weeks to complete. The training is entirely online yet closely supervised by a coach as well as a supervisor. This structured support for volunteers continues throughout their service to ensure that a counsellor is never alone when offering support; that is, the counsellor and a supervisor are on the platform simultaneously with the volunteer.
Around 600 conversations take place via their platform every day, adding up to some 165,000 over the course of its six-month lifespan. The majority of those who contact Shout are under 25 (75%), with common topics of discussion being suicide (37%), depression (36%), relationships (29%), anxiety (31%), isolation (19%) and self-harm (17%).
The organisation currently has 1500 certified volunteers who work from home or from an office or anywhere with an Internet connection. Another 3,000 are in training.
The Duke of Cambridge “reiterated that his plan is to train and become a crisis counsellor,” Lublin added, which is something he expressed he wanted to do back in September. “When you’re really busy, and/or really famous, it’s very hard to volunteer. It what’s nice about this — it’s totally anonymous. He could be the guy at the end of the phone.”
Right now, Lublin says, William is “trying to figure out how to work the training into his schedule. But he’s quite sincere about it and is certainly knowledgable.”
We are delighted to be speakers at the @giveusashout volunteer event. Today is about the celebration of all those who give time to support those in a crisis. We are honoured to have a special appearance from the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge. @KensingtonRoyal #Shout85258 pic.twitter.com/mkSY5Z4SnT
— SignHealth (@SignHealth) November 12, 2019
The future King gave an impromptu speech to the assembled volunteers. He remarked on Shout’s “amazing journey” and all the organisation has achieved thus far; the Duke also observed there is still much to be accomplished.
Volunteers were also praised for their dedication and empathy.
The event also featured a number of panels covering a range of topics, grief, depression, and specific communities where the demand for crisis counselling is particularly high.
It was an inspiring day and the royal visit undoubtedly boosted the morale of Shout’s incredible and caring army of volunteers.