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Wanstead medic urges NHS staff to speak out about mental health struggles

PUBLISHED: 13:56 17 November 2020 | UPDATED: 13:56 17 November 2020

Adam Gray featured on BBC One documentary Ambulance. Picture: Ryan McNamara/LAS

Adam Gray featured on BBC One documentary Ambulance. Picture: Ryan McNamara/LAS

©RYAN MCNAMARA 2020

A Wanstead medic who starred in a BBC One documentary is urging NHS staff to speak up and seek help over their mental health.

Sirius the dog wearing a London Ambulance Service shirt. Picture: LASSirius the dog wearing a London Ambulance Service shirt. Picture: LAS

Emergency ambulance crew member Adam Gray, 32, appeared in episode eight of the sixth series of Ambulance, which shows the emotional impact of how staff cope with dealing with trauma.

Having worked for the London Ambulance Service for three and a half years, Adam spoke about the mental health support he has received and why it’s important for other NHS staff to seek help when needed.

He said: “The hardest thing to do is to put your hand up and say that you’re not ok and find the listening ear.

“But once you’ve said that you need help and it’s acknowledged, honestly, I cannot begin to tell you how much easier it gets after that.”

Adam has suffered from depressive episodes in the past and five months ago he came to a decision with his partner, Dr Sam Ashley, who he met whilst working in A&E, that he needed professional help as his mental health began to affect their relationship.

Since then he has undertaken socially-distanced and zoom counselling sessions provided by The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC), which was launched in 2015 to provide mental and physical support for UK ambulance service staff.

He said: “It’s taken the weight off my shoulders as a problem shared is a problem halved. I think in reaching out and talking about my mental health it’s made it not as scary as daunting as I thought it would and it’s allowed me the opportunity to talk through why I am suffering at times.”

Whilst the episode shows Adam’s strong bond with his colleague Orani and the importance of their debrief at work, Adam also seeks support from Sam and his Cockapoo, Sirius.

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Adam is urging NHS staff who are experiencing mental health problems to seek help as they are often focused on helping others.

He said: “We put ourselves in situations that most people run away from and so there are always going to be times where things will get on top of us and will build up without us knowing.”

The emotional toll of the job on staff was made clear by a London Ambulance Service staff survey that found that over half of ambulance workers admitted that they felt unwell from work-related stress last year.

Adam added that he dealt with mental health problems for many years before seeking help and that more needs to be done to battle the stigma.

He said: “I guess it’s culture to be honest. I think some people are worried that if they say they’re struggling with their mental health then people may judge them.”

Whilst the pandemic has provided many challenges for NHS staff, Adam said that it has brought his ‘green family’ closer together.

He said: “I think, if anything, Covid has prompted everyone to reach out to colleagues and I think the service as the whole has been brilliant for looking out for each other.”

With the pandemic in its second wave, NHS England announced last month that it would invest an extra £15 million to expand its mental health services to help nurses, paramedics, therapists and pharmacists.

Part of the investment will be used to support critical care staff who NHS research suggests are most vulnerable to severe trauma.

Adam’s plea to NHS workers who are struggling and the general public is to seek help if and when they need it.

He said: “There will always be a listening ear and there will always be support and help you just need to ask for it. Whether we’re NHS or not we all need to look out for each other.”


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