Following the last Clap For Carers, Prince William highlighted the problem with giving our NHS workers the “hero tag” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last night marked the tenth and potentially last national Clap For Carers. We’ve all taken to our balconies, doorsteps and windows to thank our NHS and key workers on the frontline – honouring the heroes who have saved lives while risking their own during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been our way of showing gratitude and connecting with our communities to share a message of hope. For many, it’s also been a way of feeling better for a few moments.
But the woman who started Clap For Carers said it’s time for the weekly event to end because it is starting to become “negative” and politicised”. This was highlighted last night, when campaigning doctors stood outside Downing Street with a banner reading: “Doctors, not martyrs”. The group, which is challenging the government over the lack of PPE, stood in silence to honour the lost lives of over 200 NHS workers.
Prince William also gave an interview to The One Show last night, explaining the problem with continuing to call our NHS workers “heroes” – and it’s all to do with protecting their mental health.
“I am still concerned about what I’m hearing from the frontline, which is that staff still find it very difficult in the NHS to talk about their mental health and to be open about it,” he said.
“We’ve made the NHS frontline staff, rightly, heroes – but in doing so we once again give them the burden that we gave our soldiers fighting the war. They should rightly be hailed as superstars and brave and wonderful staff, but I’m very conscious from a mental health point of view that we don’t alienate some of them.”
William continued: “Where they feel like once they have this ‘hero’ tag, they can no longer shake that and therefore can’t ask for support [because] they have to be a strong pillar of strength.
“In actual fact, what we need them to be are examples of positive mental health: doing the job, beating this pandemic, helping and caring for so many people, but also looking after themselves so they come through this in one piece, and we’re not having broken NHS staff all over the country.”
His words came after Health service adviser Professor Neil Greenberg recently said staff are at risk of high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder if they don’t get the right support as the coronavirus outbreak subsides.
Clearly, there is a growing concern about the long-term effects the pandemic will have on NHS workers’ mental health.