Bereavement and trauma support volunteers from Harrogate have had a Zoom call with Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge

A group of volunteers who provide mental health support to front-line workers during the pandemic have met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a special Zoom call.

A screenshot of Hospice UK's volunteer call with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
A screenshot of Hospice UK's volunteer call with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Prince William and the Duchess spoke to members of the Just B team, who are part of North Yorkshire Hospice Care at St Michael's Hospice in Harrogate and associated with Hospice UK.

The virtual discussion on Wednesday January 13 covered topics such as the emotional wellbeing of NHS staff and the bereavement and trauma support offered by the Just B volunteers.

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The Royal Foundation has partnered with Hospice UK to help fund the Just B helpline for NHS and social care staff, and it is now open 12 hours a day on 365 days of the year. The service is confidential and free to access and focuses on those who have witnessed death and suffering from Covid-19 in their line of work.

Many of those using the helpline have not experienced the levels of death they have seen in the past year during their entire careers.

North Yorkshire Hospice Care chief executive Tony Collins, who also volunteers with Just B, was part of the call.

“I think there’s something about reticence to call at the moment, and also around calling when they feel they have space to start processing and reflecting on the experiences they’ve been through," Mr Collins told the future King and Queen.

“The phrases and the words we hear time and time again are 'exhaustion,' 'relentless,' 'there's so much death, when is it going to finish.' "

NHS staff and emergency responders also spoke about their personal experiences with mental health, and how services such as Just B have allowed them to cope better and begin to come to terms with their grief. They also acknowledged the need to continue to encourage front-line workers to utilise mental health resources, with stigma preventing staff from seeking support for themselves during such a busy period.

The Royal Foundation’s support for the Hospice UK Just B helpline, was announced in July 2020 as part of its Covid-19 Response Fund, a series of grants made to leading mental health charities to increase their capacity for helpline and chat services to meet rising demands as a consequence of the pandemic.

Just B has been offering specialist emotional and bereavement support to people in the Harrogate district for more than 10 years. More recently it has expanded to offer wider support in Yorkshire and stepped up with Hospice UK to be part of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic with UK-wide support for frontline staff.

The grants have built upon and expanded the support being offered by Our Frontline, an initiative designed to ensure that frontline staff and key workers have access to vital mental health resources and support.

The Just B helpline can be accessed daily between 8am and 8pm at 0300 303 4434.