May is designated as Mental Health Month in an effort to open dialogue about the struggles with and treatment for mental illness. Demonstrating remarkable leadership in this is an unlikely hero – Britain’s Prince Harry. In an outstanding contrast to the formality and rigidity of the Royal Family’s traditions and expectations, Prince Harry has opened up recently with great honesty about his own struggles with mental health.
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. ~ Prince Harry, in an interview with the Telegraph.
Prince Harry’s candor is both astonishing and impactful. As someone who is closely watched by media and heavily judged with a critical eye by the public, his voice carries significant influence. However, this also makes him even more vulnerable when he chooses to speak publicly about his personal experience with something many feel is taboo, embarrassing or uncomfortable. This vulnerability makes him relate-able and inspiring, particularly to people struggling with their own mental health.
Prince Harry has admitted to burying his grief over the loss of his mother, Princess Diana, and has also spoken to dealing with anger management, anxiety, and being overcome with a fight-or-flight mentality. He has sought therapy to address his unspoken grief and taken up boxing to alleviate the stress and pent-up aggression.
In 2016, Prince Harry, along with his brother Prince William and his sister-in-law Princess Kate, founded the Heads Together organization, a charity dedicated to advocacy for mental health care. But his interview with the Telegraph demonstrates an important shift from being the voice of an advocate to the voice of someone who has truly suffered the pain of mental illness. When he was willing to acknowledge his own personal experience publicly, openly and honestly, he helped make it more acceptable for others worldwide to do the same. This candor is the single most important thing he could have done to open the conversation about mental health.
Prince Harry is redefining what it means to lead by example, in not only acknowledging his illness and seeking treatment, but even more so by openly addressing it in a world that watches and critiques his every move.