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Ambulance crews can lead the way on Time to Talk Day, says Prince Harry

Prince Harry has urged London ambulance workers to lead the nation in speaking to a friend or colleague if they have any "baggage" that is playing on their minds.

Harry made an early morning visit to the capital's ambulance service headquarters to meet crews and 999 call takers as their shifts started or ended, to help launch Time to Talk Day.

The day is held on the first Thursday in February and aims to break the silence around mental health problems.

Harry was given a tour of the centre which takes 5,000 emergency calls a day and dispatches ambulance crews around London.

Paramedic Sue Trow told Harry how, in 2010, she was left terrified by a member of the public who threatened to kill her when she responded to an emergency call, and then a few days later had a similar experience.

After the second incident, Peter Rhodes, a duty manager at the time, sat down and talked with her, helping her to deal with the issue.

Harry told the pair: "I also believe if people in the green uniform aren't coming forward and talking about it, people driving blue light vehicles in general aren't talking about it, then the rest of us aren't going to talk about it.

"You guys are literally right in the thick of it, and to be able to carry on and operate at a really high percentage and be on your game the whole time, you need to come back and just get rid of all that - it's unnecessary baggage."

He added: "We're all human, we're not machines, despite a lot of people in certain jobs having to think and behave like machines in order to get the best out of you - I accept that - but it's not weakness, it's strength to be able to come forward, deal with it, move on and be a better person."

Mrs Trow later described the experiences which led to her needing support from colleague Mr Rhodes, now assistant director of operations for north central London.

After arriving by herself at the scene of an emergency in a fast response car, she found the patient had been drinking and said he wanted to kill her.

The paramedic said: "He got up and tried to spit and kick at me, it was about 3am in the morning - it was terrifying and at that point there were no police or other ambulance there."

She returned to the ambulance station upset, but a few days later found herself again feeling terrified when people at the scene of another emergency stopped her getting into her car.

Waiting at base was Mr Rhodes, who was available to listen, the paramedic added, saying: "He was very supportive, we had a cup of tea and actually managed to sit down and talk about that incident and the previous incident.

"It just felt really good to offload what had happened, if I had gone home without talking about it I would have really bottled it up."

Mr Rhodes said: "The tricky part is the outward face of the uniform, there's an expectation both from colleagues and the public that you'll hold it together and that you'll be the rock of stability - whereas behind the uniform we're all human beings."

The prince spent some time in the control room where 999 calls are answered and ambulance crews are dispatched to deal with emergencies.

Here Harry met Alexandra Turp, a 999 call taker who was left distressed by a call in October last year that left her struggling to cope.

She was helped by colleague Katie Shrimpton, who is part of the service's support network called Linc - listening, informal, non-judgmental, confidential.

Before leaving, the prince met more ambulance staff who had been affected by their work but had received help from colleagues.

Time to Talk Day is run by the organisation Time To Change and the theme of this year's day is conversations change lives.

Its aims mirror those of the umbrella organisation Heads Together, founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Harry, which wants to change the national conversation around mental health to a positive one.


From Belfast Telegraph