Two Key Lessons We Can Learn From Prince Harry's Mental Health Challenges
By Jatinder Singh, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International
Prince Harry is second in line to the British throne and regarded as one of the world's most eligble bachelors in the world. He's had a very privileged background and his network includes some of the world's most successful people. As a result, you'd be forgiven for thinking that he really does have the world at his feet and very few problems!
Recently though, he opened up in an interview with the Daily Telegraph about his very painful challenges with his own mental health and the trauma he suffered in his twenties in relation to not dealing well with his mother's death.
Princess Diana died when Prince Harry was twelve in a car accident in Paris. In a very public outpouring of grief, Prince Harry and his brother were at the centre of the tragedy during that time.
In the interview, Prince Harry showed immense courage by being vulnerable and so open about how he struggled to deal with his mother's death. He even admits to the interviewer how nervous he felt about being interviewed. He helps us to see that only by courageously confronting our challenges and facing how we feel can we start to work through and solve them.
The Prince wasn't able to do this alone however, he had the support of his brother and many others to help him face his deepest fears. So a key lesson we can learn from him is that we can't solve our problems alone and we need to have the right support around us as part of the healing process...
The Courage Of Being Honest and Vulnerable
It would have been very easy for Prince Harry to have glossed over or paid lip service to this interview, especially with the public profile he has. If he had said what he thought he needed to say for someone in his position in the royal family, it's highly unlikely he would have shared so many personal details. Instead, he brought his humanness to the interaction because he wanted to help others and he knew that could only be possible by being genuine and authentic about his experiences:
"I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”
He also spoke about the anger which he felt about the death of his mother which he had locked up:
“My way of dealing with it [his mother's death] was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help? [I thought] it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back. So from an emotional side, I was like ‘right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything’.
As a result of the anxiety he felt at Royal events he was:
"...On the verge of punching someone”
This refusal to let his emotions out was something he opened up about too:
“So I was a typical 20, 25, 28-year-old running around going ‘life is great’, or ‘life is fine’ and that was exactly it. And then [I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.”
We Need Support To Solve Our Major Problems
One of the mistakes than many of us make is thinking that to ask for help will show weakness. Instead, it shows our strength and our understanding of the simple fact that no one is perfect and can do it all on our own. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and we need to recognise when we are overwhelmed and need to seek outside support from others. Nevertheless, it's important this support is from the right people who can be trusted:
“I know there is huge merit in talking about your issues and the only thing about keeping it quiet is that it’s only ever going to make it worse...Not just for you but everybody else around you as well because you become a problem. I, through a lot of my twenties, was a problem and I didn’t know how to deal with it."
"It’s all about timing. And for me personally, my brother, you know, bless him, he was a huge support to me. He kept saying this is not right, this is not normal, you need to talk to [someone] about stuff, it’s OK."
"I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.”
The Moral of The Story And The Public Support The Prince Has Received Since
Prince Harry has been through an extraordinary life journey so far that has included both privilege and trauma that few people will witness personally. The mental and emotional challenges he has faced are however, experienced by many of us, hence his desire to help as many people as possible:
“Because of the process I have been through over the past two and a half years, I’ve now been able to take my work seriously, been able to take my private life seriously as well, and been able to put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference and things that I think will make a difference to everybody else.”
It's because so many of us have these challenges that the Prince's interview has been welcomed by so many public figures:
“He has a reach across the world that people like me can only dream of – he will have communicated in a way that I have been working all my life to achieve”
- Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists,
“It’s done more good than many, many campaigns. It’s given a message of hope that feelings left for too long can become malignant – but that it is never too late to seek help”
- Marjorie Wallace, founder of the mental health charity Sane
“Mental health problems affect people of all ages and all backgrounds. The bravery of those in public positions who speak out about their experiences helps smash the stigma around mental health and will help thousands of people to realise they are not alone.
- Theresa May, Britain's Prime Minister
Ultimately as human beings, we are more than our physical bodies. We have emotional, mental and spiritual sides that need to be supported and nurtured too. If we are struggling to deal with our emotions because of negative experiences that overwhelm us, then we are likely to see our personal and private lives suffer as a result.
It's vital that like the Prince we recognise when this is happening and seek the support that we need. It's great to see Prince Harry having such courage and vulnerability to bring the issue of mental health to the public eye and help to overcome the stigma associated with it so that others benefit too.