News: Churchill Fellow receives a visit from the Duke of Cambridge

Published: 30 Sep 2020

Author: Belinda Mason
News: Churchill Fellow receives a visit from the Duke of Cambridge

HRH Prince William has praised the work of Churchill Fellow and police sergeant Belinda Mason (CF 2018) during a visit to Northern Ireland. The Duke of Cambridge paid the visit on 9 September to mark 999 Day and observed Belinda’s Fellowship learnings being put into practice within her own police force in Belfast.

"To have HRH The Duke of Cambridge visit Northern Ireland to recognise the value of the lived experiences of my colleagues across all emergency services was a real honour" - Belinda Mason, Fellow

Belinda’s Fellowship investigated approaches to supporting mental health among police officers and she has used her learnings from America, Australia and Canada to create a model of peer support for emergency services. This model matches each individual with a peer who will then provide mental health support by listening and signposting them to appropriate services.

The model has since been adopted as best practice by the National Police Wellbeing Service and Belinda has delivered this training to 20 UK police forces. Her own force is the latest to adopt the model and training for this took place during the Duke’s visit to the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Police College. He was able to witness the training which was delivered to a cohort of 20 police offers and staff, fire and rescue officers and ambulance personnel.

Belinda says, “To have HRH The Duke of Cambridge visit Northern Ireland to recognise the value of the lived experiences of my colleagues across all emergency services was a real honour. I feel so very fortunate and grateful to have been given the opportunity to share my learning, not only within my own police force, but with several other forces in the UK.”

The Duke met with Belinda and her service dog in training, Tara (above)

During the visit, the Duke also praised the work of other emergency service workers, including police officers, ambulance staff and fire and rescue crews for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. The visit had a particular focus on the mental health challenges faced by emergency services personnel as a result of working on the frontline.

Prince William said, “Today is 999 day, a day when we come together to celebrate and thank the two million people, just like you in this room, who put their own lives on the line, time and time again to keep the rest of us safe and healthy.”

Prior to the Duke’s visit, he convened a meeting of senior leaders, including the heads of emergency services and their respective charities from across the UK, to discuss ways to better support the mental health of those working on the frontline.

Speaking about the meeting, the Duke said, “There has never been a cross-sector mental health forum of this kind, to share learnings and best practice on how best to support staff.

“I was encouraged and heartened about their desire for tangible and lasting change - with new and better collaboration and training, which could certainly draw inspiration from the peer support programme here in Northern Ireland.”

Belinda has also been inspired by the learnings of Churchill Fellow Garry Botterill (CF 2015) who travelled to the Netherlands and the USA to learn from organisations that use specially trained assistance dogs to support PTSD sufferers. Belinda now has a service dog in training, which will help with her own PTSD, as well as with other police officers and police staff.

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