Britain’s Prince Harry did himself a world of good by seeking professional help for psychological problems stemming from the 1997 death of his mother, Princess Diana. He did the world a favor by talking publicly about his struggles – a step that may help people on both sides of the Atlantic come to a better understanding of mental illness and encourage those who need help to seek it.
Harry told his story Sunday in a podcast on the website of The Telegraph, Britain’s leading broadsheet. In a interview lasting nearly 30 minutes, he spoke of the rage he felt for years after his mother’s tragic death in a crash in a Paris traffic tunnel and his struggle to understand his feelings. “I just didn’t know what was wrong with me,” he said.
The prince was 12 at the time of his mother’s death, which came about a year after Diana’s ugly divorce from Prince Charles. It was followed by years of speculation about whether the fatal crash – which also killed her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul – was anything more sinister than an accident.
Harry said he tried to cope by “shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years.” Despite the “total chaos” he sometimes felt and his fear of imminent breakdowns, he said, “I’ve spent most of my life saying I’m fine.”
When he finally did start talking about his mother, the 32-year-old said, “all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront.” With the encouragement of his brother, Prince William, he sought professional help about four years ago.
Harry was the first guest on a 10-episode podcast, “Mad World,” that will explore mental illness through the eyes of prominent people. The interviewer, Telegraph correspondent Bryony Gordon, has struggled with mental illness herself and wants listeners to know that it’s common.
The interview showed a different side of a royal with a party-boy reputation. If Harry can struggle with mental illness, everyone else can, too. There is no shame in seeking treatment, and relatives should do as William did in encouraging a loved one to seek professional help.
Last year, Harry, William and Williams’ wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, founded Heads Together, a charity dedicated to addressing the stigma of mental illness, and Harry hinted at his troubles. But his interview was a remarkable step for a member of a family known for stoicism.
Then again, Diana spent her life in the trenches, leveraging her celebrity for various causes, and she was candid about her own bulimia, depression and alienation from Charles’ family. Harry may be very much his mother’s son.