Even with everyone stuck at home, Prince William and Kate Middleton still managed to celebrate the first anniversary of Shout85258, the UK’s first 24/7 crisis text line, along with tons of volunteers through Zoom last week.
Alexis Caught, 30, was among those who were part of the call with the Cambridges and was the first person to do a special takeover on Kensington Royal’s Instagram stories last Saturday, where he answered all kinds of questions about Shout and mental health. One way he described William And Kate as being “really engaging and caring” behind the scenes.
“I think the thing that really surprised me is actually how much the Duke and Duchess genuinely care because when there aren’t press around or an audience, they’re actually really engaging and asking very smart questions, which rely on that they are doing their research. I think for people of their stature to actually be shining a light on mental health really helps to fight against the stigma and the misconception and the misperception that ‘it’s all in your head, it’s a load of nonsense, you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,'” Alexis explains.
The writer, rugby player and co-host of the Qmmunity podcast has been a supporter of Shout ever since the beginning, when he contributed to Scarlett Curtis’ book It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies), about mental health.
His first interaction with the royal couple was when he spoke at an LGBT panel event at Shout’s November Volunteer Event in November 2019, when he introduced William and Kate as part of the meet and greet. He said: “When I met the Duke and Duchess for the first time, our conversation was around changes for the LGBTQ+ community and they were very aware that rates of hate crime had started to rocket again and so they were asking smart questions about what actually needs to be done to try and stop this reverse that we’re seeing.”
Around 40 per cent of Shout’s texters, who are under 25 years old, identify of being part of the LGBT community and almost two thirds “felt more comfortable texting than talking about private things”, and contacted the service “to speak to someone that didn’t know them”. The 1,800 trained crisis volunteers have had more than 300,000 text conversations since the start of the campaign, and the messages have only increased ever since the pandemic lockdown was imposed in March 2020.
Alexis started with being a crisis volunteer last month and since then has taken many conversations with people in crisis, having reached level 4. He explains why: Lockdown has taken away people’s regular coping mechanisms and strategies, you could go to the gym, see your friends, check in with your family, go to the cinema or the theatre and do something fun to pick yourself back up.”
Shout’s crisis volunteers use empathetic and effective listening techniques to empower texters and encourage them to problem-solve for themselves, as well as giving them information of services that provide further help and support for longer-term mental health experiences.
While doing the Kensington Royal Instagram takeover, Alexis said it was “a real surprise” to be asked to do it, adding that he has received tons of great questions from members of the public who want to engage with the topic of mental health.
Alexis also talked about how working as a Shout crisis volunteer has helped him in his own life too: “Being part of the Shout community is phenomenal because the skills you learn as part of the training are incredibly valuable, it’s so much about active listening, problem-solving and empowering other people to find those solutions as well. It’s made me a better friend, probably a better family member, and a better flatmate.”