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May 21, 2019
by Kimberly Lucey

British Royals, Katy Perry Launch Mental Health Initiative

May 21, 2019 10:24 by Kimberly Lucey  [About the Author]

It's a message played simultaneously for more than 20 million people on more than 300 radio stations across the United Kingdom for mental health awareness week in that country. Prince William and Katy Perry are joined by comedian Stephen Fry, actress Jameela Jamil, and singer Alesha Dixon.

Their message is focusing on the importance speaking about our emotions, but most importantly, the power of listening, and the difference a person can make just by taking the time to stop and listen. Advocates say talking about mental health can be challenging, and if someone is willing to open up, friends, family, and volunteers need to be willing to listen.

The campaign comes less than a week after the Royal Foundation announced it's support for Shout launching in the U.K, featuring a large team of volunteers. Shout is a free, 24/7 crisis text line. The Royal Foundation says it works by connecting a person experiencing a mental health crisis to a volunteer who's trained to listen and talk with those who are struggling.

In a video promoting the launch, Prince William said "As texting is private and silent, it opens up a whole new way to find help. It provides instant support. You can have a conversation at school, home, on the bus, anywhere. I am incredibly excited to be launching this service, knowing it has the potential to reach thousands of vulnerable people every day."

Prince William is one of the founders of the Heads Together mental health initiative along with his wife Kate, and his brother Prince Harry.

Shout is launched with crisis text line, which has already been working in the United States. It had been piloted in the United Kingdom for the past year, and the foundation says Shout's 1,000 volunteers had already responded to 60,000 conversations. "Some of my most rewarding moments on the platform involve reserved texters slowly opening up after building trust with them", says volunteer Mathew Kollamkulam. He studies Psychology at University College London, and says he enjoys "getting thanked by texters for being there for them at a time when no one else was."

Advocates are now working to recruit more volunteers for the program. They say people can get involved if they are over 18, resilient and mentally ready to help people in distress, can commit 25 hours to online training and fulfill 200 total hours of volunteering, about 2-4 hours per week. They must also have a secure web connection, a laptop or computer, and access to a quiet place. Organizers say the volunteers are paired with a coach from the start of their training, and conversations are supported by clinically trained professionals.

Prince William says "It is not for everyone, there are some very difficult conversations. you need to be able to listen without judgement on a range of issues from suicidal thoughts, bullying, abuse, sexuality, self harm, and relationships." But, he says those who can help will work with people by "enabling them to move from crisis to calm, and find longer term support."

About the Author

Kimberly Lucey

Kim Lucey is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience in the field. Her career has included coverage of big breaking news events like the Sandy Hook school shooting, lockdown in Watertown, MA following the Boston marathon bombings, and Superstorm Sandy. Her in-depth reports have garnered awards, including a focus on treating mental health issues in children. Currently, she is a reporter at a television station covering the news across the Greater Boston Area with an appreciation for fact-finding and storytelling. Follow Kim on Facebook and Twitter.

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