BEYOND THE HEADLINES: A prince of a guy

Prince Harry provides hope for those dealing with mental illness

It’s not easy to disclose to the people around you that you are struggling with mental health issues, even when you are a member of the Royal Family.

But that’s exactly what Prince Harry did during an interview with the Telegraph.

“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 told the British paper.

The trigger was the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in an automobile accident. He then spent a couple of decades trying to forget the incident and her.

“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,” he said.

“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?”

For anyone, including myself, who has lost a parent at a very young age, the implications are traumatic. That person who was so central to your very being is gone, and they won’t be there ever again, especially as you transition into adulthood. Grief can just build upon already existing mental illness.

The response is varied but you can completely shut down and forget about the world around you or, in some cases, you turn to what ever mechanism may help you cope, including alcohol and drugs.

Thankfully, Prince Harry found a more constructive outlet to get by.

“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,” he told the Telegraph.

What began to turn things around for Harry was Prince William.

“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,” said Harry.

And while mental health can have you feeling very alone, even in a crowded room, you need to find that one person you can trust, that you can reach out to. For me, I began talking to anyone who would listen, but particularly to my wife. She’s been a rock even when dealing with me has been personally challenging.

Obviously it’s difficult to take that first step. How will people react when you reveal mental health issues? From my own experience, the compassion has been overwhelming.

Harry shares similar sentiments in his interview with the Telegraph.

“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,” he said.

In the celebrity-focused society we live in, Prince Harry has taken a stand that actually matters. By disclosing his own life journey, he provides hope to others, including myself. He has said that it’s OK to be who you are, and mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It won’t define you as a person.