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Prince William on why employees need to open up about mental health

The Duke of Cambridge William Windsor today acknowledged the importance of HR in the workplace and why more businesses need to understand the effect of high-pressure work environments.

Speaking on a panel at the inaugural This Can Happen conference, the royal shared with the audience his own experiences of mental health issues while working as a pilot for the RAF and the Air Ambulance.

He shared that both organisations ‘took mental health seriously’ and ‘understood that for the workforce to do a good job, they need to look after not just the body but also the mind’.

He said: “In high-pressure environments, it’s understanding it’s going to affect you – we’re all human. And it’s not just in high-pressure [situations] it happens. It can creep up completely out of the blue to people in unexpected ways,” reported HR Magazine.

The Duke also revealed that he had to deal with some extremely traumatic incidents involving children, which essentially ‘tipped him over the edge’.

“I identified something was going on,” he said, and saw that “colleagues were also feeling troubled by the case. So, we regularly spoke about it together. The most important thing is being able to talk about it.”

During the panel, Windsor noted that employees don’t often feel they are able to talk to their HR department about mental health issues. He stated that more staff members need to feel comfortable when discussing such issues with other colleagues, especially HR staff.

“Many would say ‘I wouldn’t speak to HR’,” Windsor said. “That’s a big problem if so few people are willing to talk to the body of people who are there to help with the stresses of work.”

“We spend so much time at work there needs to be a more compassionate space to talk about problems. We still have a stigma obviously and we’re chipping away at it, but that wall needs to be smashed down, where we can talk in all walks of life and colleagues feel they can open up and talk about it.”

To help combat this, the Duke and his fellow panellists; Justin Woollen, sales manager at Cisco, Ellie Cannon, a junior doctor and Edward Simpson a retired North Yorkshire police sergeant, shared some recommended tips for employers to implement to support employees suffering from mental health issues.

These included being proactive and asking employees questions, and asking more leaders in the workforce to stand up and share their own thoughts to create an ‘open culture’.

Windsor concluded: “It needs more voices in the workplace standing up and saying ‘I’ve been there’,” adding the need to create open cultures: “Where HR is the door people feel they can go to.”