PRINCE Harry has said his mother Princess Diana would be “overwhelmed and hugely encouraged” that Britons are talking publicly about their mental health problems.
The fifth in line to the throne, who earlier this week revealed he had sought counselling in his late twenties after coming close to a complete mental breakdown because of his inability to cope with the aftermath of his mother’s death, reflected on his decision to speak openly about his own problems.
He and his brother the Duke of Cambridge have never spoken publicly about their mother’s battles with eating disorders and other mental health problems.
But after opening the London Marathon Expo at the Excel Centre in east London, the Prince, who was just 12 when Diana died in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, said: “I think from her perspective she would be overwhelmed and hugely encouraged by the fact that the UK – not known for wanting to talk about mental health issues – has suddenly got to this point.”Harry, who handed out registration packs to runners in this Sunday’s London Marathon, said it was only right for him to speak openly about the counselling he sought to help smash the stigma around mental illness.“I’ve shared, just as much as everybody else has during this campaign,” he said, outlining the stories he and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had heard from others.“It was only right to share my experiences to hope to encourage others to come forward and smash that stigma, to make it easier for them to talk about their own experiences – so I was just doing my bit.“When you’ve heard so many stories from so many other people and if you can relate to that then it’s only right that you talk about your own experiences.”Harry was asked whether he was in a good place as a result of dating US actress Meghan Markle but he sidestepped the question.Instead he replied: “The point that we’ve learnt over this campaign is that if you’re able and comfortable enough to be able to talk about certain issues, certain experiences, then you come out of it a far better person.”But he later conceded he was in a good place.When it was suggested to him that the Queen, his grandmother, would not have opened up in a similar way, he replied: “It was the right time to have that conversation and the right way to have it.”
He added: “Now if there’s any way that our experiences in the past can help with that and help other people come forward, and if our experiences and sharing those experiences can help reduce the stigma for the rest of the UK – then that’s where the duty and service bit comes in.”The London Marathon has made the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Harry’s mental health campaign Heads Together its official charity.When he cut the ribbon to launch the Expo, five-year-old Mellisa Howse, whose father Tony Howse is running on Sunday, was on hand to help.William, Kate and Harry will be at the marathon on Sunday but will not be running, on security advice.Harry said: “Yes all three of us were tempted but it was probably safer and easier for us not to, and to try and do our best to lead the campaign from the side and let the focus be on the Heads Together runners, which was 200, but is now 700.”Asked what could be done about the “politically sensitive” subject of a lack of mental health services, Harry replied: “Of course it’s politically sensitive.”
He added: “It’s not our job to make those changes, our job specifically for this campaign is to remove the stigma, to allow the conversation to happen.”