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Duke and Duchess of Cambridge speak to North Yorkshire-based Just ‘B’ and frontline workers about bereavement and trauma support

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been hearing about emotional wellbeing support for UK-wide frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, provided by North Yorkshire-based Just ‘B’.

Their Royal Highnesses spoke with frontline workers and members of the Just ‘B’ team about the mental health impact of the Covid-19 crisis for those working on the frontline, and why it is vital that they are able to reach out for support at such a critical time.

Just ‘B’ is part of North Yorkshire Hospice Care, a registered charity with a family of services operating as Herriot Hospice Homecare, Just ‘B’, Saint Michael’s Hospice and Talking Spaces. Just ‘B’ provides emotional wellbeing and bereavement support, both locally and nationally, as part of the Hospice UK Just ‘B’ emotional wellbeing, bereavement and trauma support line.

Providing financial support through its Covid-19 Response Fund, The Royal Foundation has partnered with NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care to help fund the Hospice UK Just ‘B’ helpline, in order to provide vital resources when they are needed most to NHS staff, social carers and all emergency services personnel. Operating between 8am-8pm, 365 days a year, Just ‘B’ provides confidential, free to access bereavement and wellbeing support related to anxiety, trauma and the impact of encountering a significant number of deaths, in addition to support for personal bereavement and loss.

Mortality rates in both hospitals and the community have risen significantly across the past year as a result of Covid-19, causing many health and social care professionals and emergency responders to deal with levels of death they will not have experienced at any other time during their careers. Tony Collins and Caroline Francis from Just ‘B’ spoke to The Duke and Duchess about the toll that the pandemic is having on frontline staff, with service users often citing exhaustion and the relentless nature of the crisis as their reasons for calling.

Tony Collins, a volunteer for the Hospice UK Just ‘B’ helpline and Chief Executive of North Yorkshire Hospice Care, urged frontline workers to access the helpline. When speaking to the Duke and Duchess, Tony said:

“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.

“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.”

Tony added: “We know that anxiety is high among frontline workers as they continue to work through the Covid-19 pandemic. This is why the helpline is so important in providing a safe space for frontline workers to reflect and process what they have been through, talking to someone else without the fear that they’ll be burdening loved ones.

“People often think: ‘I’ve got my friends, family and colleagues, you’ve just got to knuckle down and get on with it’. Frontline staff are used to putting others first, forgetting that they also need to look after themselves.

“We feel that part of ‘getting on with it’ is making these calls to services like ours and processing in a safe space, listening to the way you are reflecting on your experiences.”

During the call, NHS staff and emergency responders 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 frontline workers to utilise mental health resources, with stigma preventing staff from seeking support for themselves during such a busy period for health and social care providers and the emergency services.

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, North Yorkshire, for more than 10 years. More recently it has expanded to offer wider support in other areas of 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 [1], an initiative designed to ensure that frontline staff and key workers have access to vital mental health resources and support.

The Just ‘B’ emotional wellbeing, bereavement and trauma helpline can be accessed daily between 8am and 8pm at 0300 303 4434.

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