Prince William is thankful that he can talk openly and honestly about mental health, as he knows not everyone is comfortable doing that. When the 39-year-old was an air ambulance pilot, his whole perspective changed.
"The moment I started the helicopter training, I realized that it was better than anything. It was one of those things that I just instantly took to and thought, 'This is really cool.' I really enjoy it," he recalled in Apple Fitness+'s Time to Walk series, which premiered on December 6. "Seeing patients and families ripped apart on almost a daily basis, that routine, you just get into a habit of head down and get on with it."
"Immediately it became clear that this young person was in serious difficulty, sadly been hit by a car," he continued. "And of course there are some things in life you don't really want to see. And all we cared about at the time was fixing this boy. And the parents are very hysterical, as you can imagine, screaming, wailing, not knowing what to do, you know, and in, in real agony themselves. And that lives with you."
Even though the boy appeared to be OK, the dad-of-three was "pretty upset" about the situation.
"I wasn't in tears, but inside, I felt something had changed. I felt a sort of, a real tension inside of me," he admitted. "It really hit me weeks later. It was like someone had put a key in a lock and opened it without me giving permission to do that. I felt like the whole world was dying. It's an extraordinary feeling. You just feel everyone's in pain, everyone's suffering. And that's not me. I've never felt that before."
He added, "My personal life and everything was absolutely fine. I was happy at home and happy at work, but I kept looking at myself, going, 'Why am I feeling like this? Why do I feel so sad?' And I started to realize that, actually, you're taking home people's trauma, people's sadness, and it's affecting you. I was lucky enough that I had someone to talk to at work in the Air Ambulance because mental health where I was working was very important."
Ultimately, William was able to "talk" about his job with others.
"We know mental health has been a taboo and a stigma for a long time all around the world. And it still is," he said. "I'd like to think, in the U.K. here and the U.S., it's much more talked about, and it's opening up. But there's still a deep-rooted fear of understanding it. And we all need to go through a process of understanding why rather than just give in to those feelings and say, 'Listen, it's me. I'm the problem.' It's not. It really isn't you."
"And you're not alone, and it's OK. It's about what you do next. It's about having that boldness and that openness and that strength to go, 'It's going to be a long journey. It's not going to be easy, but I'm going to get there,'" he concluded.