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

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Catherine, Princess of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on the long Walk at Windsor Castle arrive to view flowers and tributes to HM Queen Elizabeth on September 10, 2022 in Windsor, England. Crowds have gathered and tributes left at the gates of Windsor Castle to Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral Castle on 8 September, 2022. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
William, Kate, Harry and Meghan undertake a walkabout in Windsor together to view floral tributes left for the Queen. (Getty Images)

The Royal Family work to use their huge platform to support charities and good causes, and in recent years, the younger generation in particular have upped the ante in an attempt to end the stigma around mental health.

For years, mental health has been a focus of Prince William and Prince Harry's charitable work, as they continue to follow in the footsteps of their late mother, Diana.

Kate, the Princess of Wales has also thrown herself into this type of work since joining the House of Windsor.

When Harry and Meghan decided to forge their own path philanthropically away from life as working royals, their dedication to this cause remained clear.

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

The Duke of Sussex

Prince Harry, 38, 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 decades, 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 inside the Royal Family. (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.”

But it is since leaving life as a working royal behind that Harry has given the most candid insight to his mental health struggles.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex meets Year 7 and Year 8 students during his visit to Nottingham Academy, to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2019 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Prince Harry chats with school pupils from Nottingham Academy to mark Mental Health Day in 2019. (Getty Images)

In The Me You Can't See — a 2021 documentary executive produced by Harry and Oprah Winfrey — Harry underwent an eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy session on camera.

He also opened up about his triggers in the documentary and how for a period of his life he suppressed his emotions using alcohol.

"I was willing to drink," he said, "I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling. But slowly I became aware that, okay, I wasn't drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week's worth in one day on a Friday or Saturday night. And I would find myself drinking, not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something."

Harry explained how therapy had provided him with the tools to "be able to take on anything," since this troubled period in his life.

The Prince of Wales

Harry’s older brother William, 40, 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.

William also took part in a special episode of Time to Walk in 2021, a podcast which aims to promote mental and physical wellbeing. He expanded on how when working in the air ambulances he found himself "taking home people's trauma"

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

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is seen in the briefing room with the crew as starts his final shift with the East Anglian Air Ambulance based out of Marshall Airport on July 27, 2017 near Cambridge, England.  (Photo by Heathcliff O'Malley - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
William pictured before his very last shift working as a member of the East Anglia air ambulance crew, 2017. (Getty Images)

William and his 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.

During a video for Comic Relief in 2021, he emphasised that "mental health is complex and for those incredibly hard working people on the front line it's a challenge they've sadly encountered all too often."

In May this year, William and Kate marked mental health awareness week by taking more than 500 radio stations for a special broadcast, in which they aimed to encourage people to help support people in their communities who may be suffering from loneliness through "acts of kindness."

The Duchess of Sussex

Meghan, 41, gave a revealing interview in the same documentary in 2019 as her husband Harry, after he spoke about the problems with hearing clicks from cameras.

The 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.

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.”

But it was in the Sussexes' bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey when Meghan addressed the extent of the mental health struggles she had faced in recent years.

"I just didn't want to be alive anymore," she revealed, "And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought."

She discussed how she had finally told her husband about her suicidal thoughts and immediately afterwards had to attend an engagement at the Royal Albert Hall.

She said that pictures from the event "still haunts" her when she remembers how she felt beneath the surface at the time.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, attend the premiere of Cirque du Soleil's Totem in support of Sentebale at the Royal Albert Hall in London on January 16, 2019. (Photo by Paul Grover / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAUL GROVER/AFP/Getty Images)
While Meghan was all smiles for the cameras at the Royal Albert Hall, behind the scenes she was fighting a private battle with her mental health, January 2019. (Getty Images)

Meghan and Harry made it clear in their interview with Oprah that prioritising their mental health as a family was one of the major motivations behind their royal exit.

The Princess of Wales

Kate 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, 2020.

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.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23:  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the launch of maternal mental health films ahead of mother's day at Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on March 23, 2017 in London, England.  The educational films have been created by Best Beginnings, a charity partner of the Heads Together Campaign.  (Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Kate attends the launch of maternal mental health films at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2017. (Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Kate wrote on Twitter that it "is vital women feel listened to and supported" as they make the transition into motherhood.

She has also become patron of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and said in a video recorded to mark taking on this patronage, that "no one is immune to experiencing anxiety and depression" and spoke of the importance of being able to share these feelings "without fear of judgement."

Kate has perhaps been a little more reserved when it comes to talking publicly about the nitty gritty details of her own struggles than her husband, brother and sister-in-law.

However, her brother James Middleton, told the Telegraph during an interview that Kate and their sister Pippa and his parents all at one time or another attended therapy sessions with him while he endured a period of mental health crisis.

BUCKLEBURY, BERKSHIRE - DECEMBER 25:  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge , Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Pippa Middleton and James Middleton attend Church on Christmas Day on December 25, 2016 in Bucklebury, Berkshire.  (Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The Middleton siblings are a close knit bunch, attending church together in Berkshire to celebrate Christmas in 2016, (Getty Images)

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.

Diana has been credited with changing the conversation around eating disorders in particular, after her unreserved confessions on this subject to both Bashir and Andrew Morton, who famously wrote a biography of Diana in collaboration with her.