“A simple ‘Hello, how are you?’ is sometimes all it takes to save a life”, the Duke of Cambridge said as he launched a campaign to reduce deaths on the River Thames.
William met bereaved parents and emergency service staff as he said stories of accidental drownings and suicides were “heartbreaking reminders” of the importance of safety measures on the UK’s busiest waterway.
Around 700 life-threatening incidents take place along the river every year, including slips, falls, and suicide attempts, with more than 30 deaths annually.
Campaigner Beckie Ramsay, whose son Dylan died aged 13 in 2011 while swimming with friends at a quarry in Lancashire, said it was “amazing somebody so prestigious is putting their name to water safety, finally”.
William travelled by boat on the Thames on Tuesday as he was told about the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum by staff from the Port of London Authority (PLA) and the Metropolitan Police.
The scheme is part of the national Drowning Prevention Strategy, which aims to halve accidental drowning deaths in the UK by 2026 and reduce the risk of people taking their own lives in the water.
Mental health advocate Jonny Benjamin, who was saved from attempting suicide off Waterloo Bridge by passer-by Neil Laybourn in 2008, appears in the campaign.
He said of his rescuer: “He listened in a way I sort of hadn’t been listened to before, with real patience and no judgment.
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here without that intervention. It saved my life.”
In a speech on board the Silver Sturgeon ship to an audience including emergency services representatives and Suicide Prevention Minister Jackie Doyle-Price, William said: “Prevention includes practical measures to save lives.
“Providing and maintaining life-saving equipment along the river, and reducing opportunities to enter the Thames, is very, very much needed.
“Prevention also includes the vital work done by so many frontline staff.
“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. Don’t be afraid to stop and intervene if you see someone who might be considering taking their own life.
“A simple ‘Hello, how are you?’ is sometimes all it takes to save a life.
“I have just been meeting with families who have lost loved ones on the river.
“Their stories are heartbreaking 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.”
The safety scheme is a collaboration between Scotland Yard, the PLA, the London Fire Brigade, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, London Ambulance Service, and HM Coastguard.
Suicide accounts for nine in 10 of all deaths on the Thames, while suicide-related incidents account for around half of all search-and-rescue missions on the river, according to the campaign.