Prince Harry opens up about his service in Afghanistan war
Prince Harry spoke about the mental health challenges he faced while serving in Afghanistan as he met ambulance crews in London.
Recalling his days flying helicopters on his second tour, he said, “You land and then hand them over and then are radioed to do something else. You never find out how that guy or girl recovered, whether they did recover or they didn’t.”
He told them, “I understand what you go through and thank God you have got each other.”
His comments came as he chatted with them at the launch of Time to Talk Day, an annual awareness day run by Time to Change, and they echoed his sentiments to PEOPLE last year on the eve of the Paralympic-style Invictus Games.
Harry, along with Prince William and sister-in-law Princess Kate, are behind the Heads Together campaign, uniting leading charities in the field to break the existing stigma around mental health.
For Harry, Thursday’s event in Waterloo, south London, was meant to underline that “conversations save lives” – especially at workplaces like the emergency services, where first-responders staff listen and deal with difficult incidents every day of their working lives.
The prince listened as some of the first-responders told the difficulties they had to face. Alexandra Turp, 24, an emergency medical dispatcher in the emergency operations center, and allocator Katie Shrimpton, 28, who also acts as LINC worker, a voluntary network of staff who listen to and support their peers.
Turp talked about an incident last October when she took a call about a patient who wasn’t breathing. “It was a hugely chaotic situation with five people all shouting at me down the phone to send help. I was being passed from person to person and had no idea even where they were, it was very frustrating.
“It took me a while to even establish the patient wasn’t breathing, it was really, really difficult situation. I felt so helpless for the patient and no-one was actually helping them,” she said.
She later learned that the patient had recently died.
“I knew instantly that I couldn’t be on duty – I was a wreck – and someone covered for me. I sat down with Katie and we spoke for an hour and a half. I walked out feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.”
Harry said, “It shows the importance of talking. For you guys every day is different, you never know what you are going to get.”
Harry added, “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.”
There was a lighter moment during the visit when Harry visited a room where organisations were laying on treatments such as massage and reflexology for staff.
Harry burst into laughter when he noticed that over his shoulder – and in full view of the media cameras – a masseuse was pulling down a man’s pants to start working on his lower back. “I wondered what you lot would be seeing, err, behind me,” the prince laughed, addressing the cameras as he jumped out of the way.
A press officer was swiftly dispatched to deal with what was described as “the bottom.”