Prince William Highlights Suicide Prevention on River Thames: ‘A Simple Hello Can Save a Life’

Simon Perry

Prince William set sail for a serious cause on Tuesday.

Before joining his wife, Kate Middleton, at an afternoon garden party with Queen Elizabeth, William sailed along the River Thames to help curb the number of people thinking of taking their own lives from one of the many bridges that span the famous waterway.

He also encouraged people to be bold in coming forward to help others. Prominent suicide prevention activist Jonny Benjamin was saved when a stranger, Neil Laybourn, came to his assistance as he was set to leap from a bridge over the Thames.

Last week, Benjamin told PEOPLE that William is on a “real mission” to prevent male suicide, adding, “He is not just raising awareness but putting things in place that will make a difference. It’s all very well talking about mental health, but we need to make sure there are things happening.”

Prince William meets first responders during the launch of a new campaign to help prevent accidents and self-harm incidents on the River Thames. | REX/Shutterstock

William spoke of Benjamin’s story when he said Tuesday, “Don’t be afraid to stop and intervene if you see someone who might be considering taking their own life. Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn, who speak so powerfully about their experiences. A simple, ‘Hello, how are you?’ is sometimes all it takes to save a life.”

Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

William’s appearance helped launch a new campaign uniting many agencies who work along the river to help prevent accidents and self-harm incidents. Around 700 incidents take place where people’s lives are at risk, either unintentionally or as the result of suicide attempts on the Thames. Each year, there are more than 30 fatalities.

In a speech, William said, “I have just been meeting with families who have lost loved ones on the river. Their stories are heart-breaking reminders of how important all your work is to keep the river safe. Every life lost and every life-changing accident is one too many.”

Prince William during the launch of a new campaign to help prevent accidents and self-harm incidents on the River Thames on May 21, 2019. | Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

William, who previously worked as an air ambulance pilot and air-sea rescue helicopter pilot, also praised the first responders. “They help to keep the Thames safe, day in day out, in all sorts of weathers. I’m really pleased to have met some of these staff today, and to have heard about their dedication to prevent loss of life on the river.”

“And of course prevention involves all Londoners. Everyday people, going about their commute or on their journey to the pub, have a hugely important role to play.”