Prince William tells how his time as an air ambulance pilot affected his mental health
PUBLISHED: 00:01 18 May 2019
The Duke of Cambridge has described how his experiences as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance left him feeling death was “just around the door” everywhere he went.
Prince William, who was a pilot for the EAAA between March 2015 and July 2017, made the frank admission during an upcoming TV documentary about mental health in which he said dealing with families "having the worst news they could ever possibly have" on a daily basis while with the EAAA left him with a "very depressing, very negative feeling".
He also speaks candidly about the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, and said there was "pain like no other pain" following his bereavement.
The BBC One documentary, A Royal Team Talk, sees the duke team up with footballers Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry, Danny Rose, Jermaine Jenas and England manager Gareth Southgate as they share issues they have struggled with during their careers in a discussion about the importance of mental fitness.
The conversation was filmed earlier this month at the grounds of Cambridge United Football Club, which is pioneering what it means to be a mentally healthy football club.
During the programme the duke said he found the emotional side of being an EAAA pilot "very difficult" but before his experiences took their toll, and became a "real problem", he decided to speak to someone.
He said he had come from the military where feelings were put to one side, and he had seen men struggle to deal with the experience of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan once they had left the forces.
He added: "To then go in to the ambulance world, which is a much more open and actually, in some cases, very raw, emotional day-to-day stuff, where you're dealing with families who are having the worst news they could ever possibly have on a day-to-day basis, it leaves you with a very depressing, very negative feeling, where you think death is just around the door everywhere I go.
"And that's quite a burden to carry and feel.
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"And I felt that with a few jobs that I did, where there were particular personal resonations with the families that I was dealing with.
"That raw emotion, I just thought listen, I can't - I could feel it brewing up inside me and I could feel it was going to take its toll and be a real problem. I had to speak about it."
The Duke said the death of his mother, who died in 1997 in a Paris car crash, meant he could relate to others who had suffered a bereavement.
He said: "I've thought about this a lot, and I'm trying to understand why I feel like I do, but I think when you are bereaved at a very young age, any time really, but particularly at a young age, I can resonate closely to that, you feel pain like no other pain.
"And you know that in your life it's going to be very difficult to come across something that's going to be even worse pain than that.
"But it also brings you so close to all those other people out there who have been bereaved."
In recent years Prince William and his brother the Duke of Sussex have talked extensively about how they dealt with their mother's death, as they promoted their Heads Together mental health campaign, which encouraged people to talk about their problems or listen to others facing issues.
Talking about national traits, the duke added: "The British stiff upper lip thing, that's great and we need to have that occasionally when times are really hard. There has to be a moment for that.
"But otherwise we've got to relax a little bit and be able to talk about our emotions because we're not robots."
A Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health is part of the BBC's wider mental health season, and will be screened on BBC One tomorrow at 10.30pm.