Royal family talk mental health: William, Kate, Harry and Meghan on their own struggles

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·6 min read

The Royal Family often uses its platform to support charities and good causes, and in recent years, the younger generation has played its role in ending the stigma around mental health.

Both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made mental health a focus of their work, in and out of the Royal Family.

While the Queen is known for her “never complain, never explain” mantra, there’s a different approach from her grandchildren.

Prince Harry

Prince Harry, 35, is arguably the royal who has been the most open about his mental health drawing specifically on his mother’s death.

Harry gave an interview in 2017 in which he said he had sought counselling to deal with the death of Princess Diana about 20 years before that.

He said he “shut down” his emotions for two decade, but thanks to seeking help, he was in a “good place” again.

Harry said it was his brother, William, who pushed him to get help, pointing out that some of what he was feeling was “not normal”.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex tours The Silverstone Experience at Silverstone on March 6, 2020 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Simon Dawson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Harry has been open about his mental health struggles. (Getty Images)

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In the interview, Harry said: “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.”

He took up boxing to help him.

In 2019, he reflected again on his mental health, during a documentary which followed him and his wife Meghan Markle on their tour in South Africa.

He admitted he struggled with being in the limelight like his mother was, given she died after being followed by paparazzi.

He said: “I think being part of this family, in this role, in this job, every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back, so in that respect it's the worst reminder of her life, as opposed to the best.”

Prince William

Harry’s older brother William hasn’t let being second in line to the throne stop him from revealing his personal mental health struggles.

In 2019, he said he’d felt a pain like no other when his mother died in 1997.

He said: “I've thought about this a lot, and I'm trying to understand why I feel like I do, but I think when you are bereaved at a very young age, any time really, but particularly at a young age, I can resonate closely to that, you feel pain like no other pain.”

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, talks with campaigners, teachers parents of young people who've been supported and coaches during a visit Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, in Dublin on March 4, 2020 on the second day of their three day visit. (Photo by Brian Lawless / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BRIAN LAWLESS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
William said he was able to spot his own mental health problems. (Getty Images)

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William’s former job as an air ambulance pilot also took its toll on him.

He said the work “tipped him over the edge” partly because he worked “several times on traumatic jobs involving children”.

Once he had his own children, those jobs became harder, and he said he felt “very sad and very down” about one particular family.

He noticed something was wrong and spoke to others about how he felt, crediting the debrief with others as crucial to feeling better.

Since then, his personal experience has informed the focus of his work, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

William, 37, and his wife Kate launched Our Frontline, an initiative which brings together services to provide 24 hour care and support to key workers who have continued through the lockdown.

The Duchess of Sussex

Meghan gave a revealing interview in the same documentary as her husband Harry, after he spoke about the problems with hearing clicks from cameras.

The 38-year-old duchess had tears in her eyes as she talked about the criticism she had faced from the press and online.

She said not many people had asked if she was OK, and when asked if it had been a struggle, said: “Yes.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 09: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 at Westminster Abbey on March 9, 2020 in London, England. The Commonwealth represents 2.4 billion people and 54 countries, working in collaboration towards shared economic, environmental, social and democratic goals. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Meghan has said it was a struggle to deal with the press attention. (Getty Images)

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She’d also said there was an importance in getting people to talk about their mental health.

Meghan has also been keen to talk openly about the importance of good mental health, and many people who have worked with her have said she taught them about it.

Her former hairdresser, George Northwood, said: “I have enjoyed every minute collaborating with this amazing couple who not only champion small businesses but have taught me so much about diversity, equality and the importance of good mental health.”

Before the couple mothballed their Sussex Royal Instagram account, they urged their followers to look after their mental health.

They signed off by saying: “Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another.”

The Duchess of Cambridge

Kate, also 38, is particularly focused on mental health in children in her royal work, and has spoken about making sure her children know they can speak to her or William about their feelings.

Speaking about life under lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, the duchess said they had “ups and downs” appreciating it was the same for “lots of families”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with a school choir as she hosts a Gala Dinner in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Place2Be at Buckingham Palace on March 09, 2020 in London, England. The Duchess is Patron of Place2Be, which provides emotional support at an early age and believes no child should face mental health difficulties alone. (Photo by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate focuses lots of her work on children's mental health. (Getty Images)

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Kate and William joined forces with people like Dua Lipa, Harry Kane and Anthony Joshua to send a message for mental health awareness week on 18 May.

She’s also made calls to various charities during the lockdown to ensure the message of speaking about mental health is getting out there.

On her own mental health, she touched on the difficulties of adapting to life as a mother.

She said: “At times it has also been a huge challenge, even for me, who has support at home that most mothers do not.

“It's so hard. You get a lot of support with the baby as a mother, particularly in the early days, but after the age of one it falls away.”

Princess Diana

Years before her sons set about tackling stigma when it came to talking about mental health, Diana was talking about hers.

In 1995, having left the Royal Family and divorced husband Prince Charles, she gave an interview to Martin Bashir at the BBC about life in the palace.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 24:  Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a red dress designed by Catherine Walker, attends a dinner in her honour on November 24, 1995 in Argentina. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Diana was one of the first royals to speak about her mental health. (Getty Images)

Speaking about having her first son, William, she said: “It had been quite a difficult pregnancy – I hadn't been very well throughout it – so by the time William arrived it was a great relief because it was all peaceful again, and I was well for a time.

“Then I was unwell with postnatal depression, which no one ever discusses, postnatal depression, you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You'd wake up in the morning feeling you didn't want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself.”

Asked about how it affected her marriage, she said: “Well, it gave everybody a wonderful new label - Diana's unstable and Diana's mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.”

The trailblazing royal’s openness has helped her sons continue her work in breaking down the stigma.