Prince Harry has given an extraordinary and unprecedented interview about his personal life and mental health, in which he has lifted the lid on the “total chaos” his life became in his mid-20s as he struggled to come to terms with the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
In a remarkable and candid interview with Bryony Gordon from the Daily Telegraph in support of the Heads Together mental health charity, which he now champions along with Prince William and Kate Middleton, Harry revealed that he suffered panic and rage attacks and was close to a “complete breakdown” on several occasions, and that things only began to change for him after he sought professional help from a “shrink.”
The 30-minute conversation, released by the Telegraph as a podcast, undoubtedly ranks as one of the most candid insights into the troubled inner world of a senior royal ever made public.
Although Prince Charles opened up to his biographer Jonathan Dimbleby about the perceived failings of his parents and his anger toward them, the level of detail and the searing honesty Harry has put on display in this new interview is unprecedented for the traditionally reserved royal family.
His remarks will, of course, invite comparison with Princess Diana, who spoke openly about her struggles with bulimia (among other issues, such as her husband’s adultery) in her famous Panorama interview. Diana’s frank and honest acknowledgement of her eating disorders did much to move forward discussion of the issue.
Harry’s comments are all the more remarkable, however, as while his mother was arguably motivated by anger, Harry seems to have as his only objective the desire to help other people by encouraging them to seek help by discussing their problems with professionals.
Harry noticeably began to speak about his mother and her legacy last year while promoting the Invictus Games, and this new interview goes some way to explaining how and why that happened.
Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, said in the podcast that he spent his teenage years and 20s in denial and “shutting down” about her death.
“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 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.”
Asked whether he had been to see a “shrink” to offload his thoughts, he said: “I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times, but it’s great.”
He said he had also struggled with anger issues, commenting: “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.”
“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,” he added.
Harry said William told him: “Look, you really need to deal with this. It is not normal to think that nothing has affected you.”
When it came to Diana’s death, Harry said in the podcast, “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 from an emotional side, I was like, ‘Right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything.’
“So I was a typical 20-, 25-, 28-year-old running around going ‘life is great,’ or ‘life is fine’ and that was exactly it.
“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.”
He said he endured “two years… of total chaos,” adding, “I just couldn’t put my finger on it… I just didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
Harry spoke at length about the positive upshot of finally learning to talk about his issues: “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.