‘Close to breakdown’: Prince Harry’s journey with mental health

Prince Harry has endured his own battle with mental health for years, but he's winning that fight by helping others. REUTERS
Prince Harry's lifelong journey with mental health started without him realising, when he shut away the emotion and grief of his mother Princess Diana's death until his late 20s. Now, The Duke of Sussex is on a quest to undo that agony by helping others who "suffer silently".

In 1997, Prince Harry’s world – and that of his family – changed forever.

On August 31 that year, the news came through that his mother, Princess Diana, had died in a car crash in Paris.

But it wouldn’t be for almost 20 years that the then-12-year-old prince would confront his grief.

Instead, what followed for Harry was a period of uncertainty, denial and confusion that would ultimately harm his own mental health, something he’s long been trying to undo.

Much of that journey has involved helping others: Meeting fellow sufferers of mental ill-health and hearing their stories, advocating for those who don’t know where to turn, appearing on podcasts and bearing his heart and soul to the world on the airwaves.

In doing so, Harry’s been able to carry out his own self-healing.

In what has become a frequently-referenced milestone in that process, in 2017, Prince Harry was interviewed by The Telegraph‘s Bryony Gordon on her “Mad World” podcast.

The world saw another side to Prince Harry when he opened up about his struggles with mental health on a Telegraph podcast in 2017. REUTERS
The world saw another side to Prince Harry when he opened up about his struggles with mental health during a Telegraph podcast in 2017. REUTERS

In that interview he opened up at length about his struggle with being unable to deal with his mother’s death at the time, admitting he shut it away for almost two decades and only began to come to terms with it at 28.

“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mom, because why would that help?,” he said on Gordon’s podcast.

“[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,’” he added.

If that wasn’t the start of a new chapter for Harry, then it was certainly a turning point for public perception of him, as he endeared himself to the public as one of their own, and not bullet-proof.

You can be a Royal, you can be a solider, but no-one’s invincible.

Harry’s demons led him to the point of breakdown in his late 20s, he admitted, and credits his older brother and future King Prince William for convincing him to seek help.

Harry said in the podcast discussion, “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. The timing wasn’t right. You need to feel it in yourself, you need to find the right person to talk to as well.”

Hitting the gym and throwing on the boxing gloves helped, too.

“[Boxing] really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier.”

Prince Harry is now on a fight to tackle mental health across the world.

And for his next bout, Harry’s joined the heavyweights of Hollywood.

Next year, his documentary series on mental health – a collaboration with Oprah Winfrey and other A-list producers and executives – will air on Apple TV+.

Harry says the series is aimed at helping those who “silently suffer” – something the 35-year-old knows only too well.

In revisiting the podcast he aired with Gordon two years ago, Harry recently told The Telegraph:

“If the viewers can relate to the pain and perhaps the experience, then it could save lives, as we will focus on prevention and positive outcomes.

“I’m very much still on my own path. What I have learned and I continue to learn in the space of mental health, mental illness and self-awareness is that all roads lead back to our mental wellbeing, how we look after ourselves and each other.”

Read more: Harry to follow in Princess Diana’s footsteps in Angola


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