Prince Harry Opens Up About Mental Health Struggles After His Mother’s Death

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After enduring two years of what he calls “total chaos”, Prince Harry opens up about his ongoing struggle to come to terms with the death of his mother.

In a candid podcast interview released by The Daily Telegraph, the 32-year-old royal told Mad World host Bryony Gordon that he “shut down all [his] emotions” for nearly two decades after losing his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

The 30-minute interview comes during promotion for Prince Harry’s much-publicized campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues. (The campaign, Heads Together, is spearheaded by Princes Harry and William and the Duchess of Cambridge).

During the interview, Prince Harry admitted that he only began to address his grief at the age of 28 when he realized he was consumed with anxiety during royal engagements and often felt “on the verge of punching someone” and was “very close to a complete breakdown.”

This unprecedented glimpse into the emotional grief of a high-profile royal has made waves on social media, encouraging others to open up about their own personal struggles and break the stigma surrounding mental health.

Prince Harry admitted to Gordon that he spent the majority of his teen years and early 20s trying not to think about his mother, who died on August 31, 1997 in a car accident.

“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,” he revealed. “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.”

The royal admitted that boxing has proved to be a valuable outlet to vent his frustrations and anxieties. “During those years I took up boxing, because everyone was saying boxing is good for you and it’s a really good way of letting out aggression,” he said. “And that really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier.”

Eventually, with the encouragement of his brother and close friends, Prince Harry sought professional help.

“The experience I have had is that, once you start talking about it, you realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club,” he said during the Mad World interview. “[Before] my way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help? … [I thought] ‘it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back.’ … So, I was a typical 20, 25, 28-year-old running around going ‘life is great’ or ‘life is fine’ … And then [I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the 
forefront and I was like, ‘there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.'”

And it was the support of his older brother that allowed him to see the benefits in asking for help. “It’s all about timing,” he said. “And for me personally, my brother, you know, bless him, he was a huge support to me. He kept saying this is not right, this is not normal, you need to talk to [someone] about stuff, it’s OK.”

Prince Harry added: “I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.”

Listen to the full podcast here.