Prince Harry gave an interview on a new podcast series from Bryony Gordon at the Telegraph in which he opened up about the grief he experienced after the 1997 death of his mother, Princess Diana, and how it took him 16 years before he sought mental health counseling to deal with it.
You can listen to the roughly 30-minute long podcast interview here; below I’ve quoted some of Harry’s interview.
Not dealing with the death of his mom did damage to his life: “I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well. 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 sought professional mental health counseling and took up boxing: “I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times, but it’s great. During those years I took up boxing, because everyone was saying boxing is good for you and it’s a really good way of letting out aggression. And that really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier.”
Harry refused to deal with the loss of his mom in his teens and 20s: “My way of dealing with it 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’. 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.”
Harry didn’t suffer mental health issues because of Afghanistan: “I can safely say it’s not Afghanistan-related. I’m not one of those guys that has had to see my best mate blown up next to me and have to apply a tourniquet to both their legs. Luckily, thank God, I wasn’t one of those people.”
Harry on his work with the personnel recovery unit: “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.”
On eventually seeking help: “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. The timing wasn’t right. You need to feel it in yourself, you need to find the right person to talk to as well. 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.”
On his current focus on mental health: “What we are trying to do is normalise the conversation to the point where anyone can sit down and have a coffee and just go ‘you know what, I’ve had a really s— day, can I just tell about it? Because then you walk away and it’s done. 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.”
This is what I’ve been waiting for! Ever since William, Kate, and Harry started the Heads Together thing, I’ve been waiting for something like this. Some big moment where they truly open up about why they care about the mental health thing. And this is it, so thank you Harry for that. Although why they didn’t do it as an official part of the HT campaign is beyond me.
I have to say, quite a bit of what Harry said here resonated with me personally, and I think it will resonate with a lot of people who read or listen to Harry’s words. I especially connected to what he was about dealing with emotional pain with the attitude of “don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything”. I did that for a long, long time about a lot of things. But brushing emotional pain under the rug doesn’t solve the problem, it just numbs it for a while. It’s not about not having emotions, it’s about dealing with the emotions and moving past them and not letting them control you.
I also really liked that Harry said “you need to find the right person to talk to”, because that’s something I’ve been saying is lacking in the HT narrative. It’s not just about talking to people, it’s about talking to the correct people, because talking to the wrong people will hurt more than help.
This is a watershed moment for Harry, and I’m really glad he did this interview.
— Bryony Gordon (@bryony_gordon) April 16, 2017