Prince Harry and Prince William and Kate Middleton Duchess of Cambridge at a Heads Together mental health event for the London Marathon, 2017

For their Heads Together campaign to raise awareness over mental health issues, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry join a training day with runners taking part in the 2017 London Marathon on February 5, 2017. (Picture by James Whatling)

Prince Harry revealed his own mental health struggles after the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. In an extraordinarily candid interview with Bryony Gordon of the Telegraph newspaper, Prince Harry said he “shut down all his emotions” for years. In Gordon’s Mad World podcast, he said, “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.” Harry, who was 12 when his mother died in a car crash in Paris, continued, “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.”

“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?, he revealed to Gordon in the interview. “[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.”

Around two years ago, he finally began to deal with the emotions he’d bottled up for so many years. “[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.” It was his elder brother, Prince William, who encouraged him to get professional help. “It’s all about timing,” Harry acknowledged. “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.”

Why is Prince Harry talking about his mental health struggles?

Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge are the public faces of a major campaign in Britain called Heads Together. Through their charitable foundation, they’ve joined forces with several charities in the field including YoungMinds, which works with children and youths, to end the stigma around mental health. “Let’s change the conversation from one of silence and shame to one of optimism and support,” William said last year.

For a royal family not known for showing its members’ personal weaknesses, their advocacy for Heads Together is so open and forceful that it’s making headlines. Last year, it was Kate’s turn when she declared, “Both William and I feel very strongly that we wouldn’t hesitate to get expert support for George and Charlotte if they need it.” And during their royal visit to Canada last autumn, Prince William and Kate talked openly about the issue with affected families at one of British Columbia’s leading mental health charities.

‘Normalize the conversation,’ says Harry

“What we are trying to do is normalize 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–t day, can I just tell about it? Because then you walk away and it’s done,” Prince Harry explains. It’s certainly worked for him. Saying he’s in a “good place,” he again urges everyone to reach out for help: “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.”

Why now?

Heads Together is the main charity of this year’s London Marathon, which takes place on Sunday, April 23. So the royal trio are using the publicity to increase awareness for their mental health initiative. On Tuesday, a video of a chat between Prince William and singer Lady Gaga about how it’s “OK to say” that they have issues, went viral. As the Heads Together website stated, “Lady Gaga said she felt people with mental health challenges were ‘not hiding anymore’ with the duke adding that it is time ‘to feel normal about mental health—it’s the same as physical health’ and that good conversations can ‘really make such a difference.’ ”

The next day, Kate hosted a group of marathon runners from the Heads Together team at Kensington Palace.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prince Harry (back in the U.K. after an Easter visit to his girlfriend Meghan Markle in Toronto) opened the runners expo at the London Marathon.

Through confidential help lines, online resources and other services, mental health organizations can help anyone struggling with the problems inherent today: job loss, depression, a relationship break-up. When Prince William and Kate were in Canada, they visited the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre. As its website explains: “Mental health challenges and disorders can happen to anyone. They affect people of all ages, races and social classes. No one is immune. The best way to prevent mental health challenges from getting worse is to recognize symptoms early and get professional help. Many mental health challenges and disorders can be treated successfully. When the signs are recognized early, that person can get started on the path to a full recovery.”

Now, through his candid talk, Prince Harry has shown that anyone can reach out and ask for help.