When you go offline for a few days you can miss a lot. Usually catching up with the news is a study in societal and inidivdual failure. It makes for a bleak read. Consequently I was pleasantly surprised to find a glimmer of hope shining through. Today the news was dominated with articles surrounding various topics about mental health. The status of mental wellbeing has been rising in media attention in recent years. I’m hopeful that today heralds a new level of understanding in the importance of mental health.
For those of you who missed the headline, Prince Harry recorded a podcast for The Telegraph with reporter Bryony Gordon. He spoke about his own mental health particularly in relation to the death of his mother, Princess Diana, at the age of 12. As noted by the BBC, Prince Harry is now the highest ranking individual in England to speak openly about his experiences of mental health. Prince Harry noted that he largely ignored his emotional responses to his mother’s death until his early 20’s. He finally sought counselling with the support of his brother Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and decided to speak openly about his experiences to encourage others to do the same.
Prince Harry’s honesty is another cog in the machine to get recognition for the importance of speaking frankly about mental health. I’m always amazed by the continued misconception that mental health is not something that affects us all. Too often in my work, raising awareness and educating about mental health, do I hear mental health and mental illness used interchangeably. The ongoing support of the royal family, particularly Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Prince William and Kate – provides some much needed media attention which can go a long way to providing clarity.
With the help of high-profile campaigners including Lady Gaga who is collaborating with the royals on their Heads Together project (which is sponsered by the London Marathon) we can provide further and much needed understanding and empathy. Prince William, who also revealed his own struggles to accept his mother’s death at aged 15, has urged Britain to forego it’s stiff upper lip approach. He wants his own children – George and Charlotte – to grow up feeling able to speak about their emotions and feelings. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Prince Harry isn’t the first and won’t be the last person to struggle with their emotions alone, feeling unable to or simply not knowing where to seek help. We need people to speak out about looking after their own mental health because it’s something we all have. We need people to encourage others to seek support if they need it. We need more information on where to get help if you need it. We need to change perceptions, struggling with your mental health isn’t a sign of weakness but an incredible sign of strength.
Look Out for the BBC’s 2 part programme Mind Over Marathon where Prince William meets 10 London Marathon runners with their own lived experience.