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Even princes suffer with anxiety and mental health problems

Tue 18th Apr 2017

Prince Harry spoke recently of the trauma of losing his Mum
Prince Harry spoke recently of the trauma of losing his Mum

It would have been hard to miss the coverage of Prince Harry’s recent interview in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.  Harry, it seemed to me, was extremely brave to open up and tell the world that he had suffered from mental health issues for over 20 years, ever since his mother Princess Diana tragically died in a car crash when he was only 11 years old.

He made it painfully clear that when something terrible happens to you it is best to try and talk about how you feel and not keep your emotions bottled up.

In Prince Harry’s case he said, “it was 20 years of not thinking about it and two years of total chaos”, after which he finally sought help and went to see a counsellor.  For over two decades he had not talked about how he had felt. He said; “Once I off-load my stuff to somebody else I feel so much better.  I know there is huge merit in talking about your issues and the only thing about keeping quiet is it’s only ever going to make it worse”.

In this day and age when celebrity seems to be appealing to so many, it certainly helps when someone as high profile as Harry decides to speak honestly and publicly about his dark times and traumas - and recommends to people who are suffering to try and talk to friends and family, and if they can to seek help from a professional.  In his own words he reflected that “the best and easiest people to speak to is a shrink or whoever…I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times.”

I would never describe myself as a shrink and nor would most of the counsellors I know, but I think what Harry meant was that if you have a problem it is often easier to talk to a total stranger about it - and preferably a professional.

In recent years many well known public figures such as the actor Stephen Fry (now Chair of the Mental Health Charity Mind), footballer Rio Ferdinand, the ex-political spin doctor Alastair Campbell, comedian Ruby Wax, actors Catherine Zeta Jones, Mel Gibson, Emma Thompson, the late Carrie Fisher, Brad Pitt, and singers Elton John, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have all talked publicly about their mental health problems.  The late Prime Minister Winston Churchill once famously talked about the ‘black dog’ of his depression.

I’m hoping that with such famous and respected individuals talking more openly and freely that it will start to alleviate any stigma that is attached to mental health problems.  After all, everyone accepts it if you have a broken leg, or are suffering from more serious illnesses like cancer, and one day I hope that mental health will be looked at in the same way.  Mental health problems need to be normalised so that people are not ashamed to talk about them like they do when they have a physical illness.

For some it will surely be helpful to know that even people who seem to be living charmed lives, like celebrities and the Royal Family, also suffer from depression, anxiety, bereavement and many other mental health problems.  I hope that these famous people opening up might make it easier for everyone to think about seeking help when life seems too hard to cope with and you are feeling overwhelmed. Whether you are experiencing depression and anxiety, loneliness, addiction, bereavement, or a variety of other problems and feeling you can’t cope with the stresses and strains of life do think about the possibility of seeking counselling.  It is an old saying but a “problem shared….”