Royals

All the royals who have opened up and been refreshingly honest about mental health

“A simple conversation that can make things better.”
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The conversation around mental health and mental illness and support is more important than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Here in Australia, we’re marking R U OK? Day on September 9 and around the world people are opening up about their own mental health journeys.

That includes members of the British royal family and a number of other royal families across Europe.

From Prince William and Prince Harry, to the late Princess Diana, and Sweden’s future queen, more and more royals are speaking openly about their own battles.

Of course, Prince Harry and Meghn, Duchess of Sussex, have probably had the most high-profile discussions about mental illness lately.

They both opened up about their own mental states in their March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, and Harry shared more details in a follow-up series with Winfrey.

But they’re far from the only ones speaking out, with William, Duchess Catherine, and many more royals sharing their experiences publicly.

And long before they ever shared their stories, Princess Diana opened up about her struggles in the spotlight.

In honour of R U OK? Day we’re honouring the brave and bold royals who have spoken honestly about mental health.

This article discusses anxiety, depression and eating disorders and may be triggering for some readers – If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Catherine has spoken about the importance of mental health several times and spearheads the Heads Together initiative with husband Prince William. But she’s also opened up about her own struggles in the past, especially when she first became a mother.

“It’s so hard,” the Duchess said in 2018 of adapting to motherhood. “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. After that there isn’t a huge amount… everybody experiences the same struggle.”

She has encouraged better mental health support for mothers and young people in the UK through her charity work and once said of offering support: “Sometimes, it’s just a simple conversation that can make things better.”

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Prince William

Like his wife, William has spearheaded a number of mental health charities and initiatives, admitting they are deeply personal to him due to his own mental health struggles. The Duke of Cambridge lost his mother, Princess Diana, when he was just 15 and struggled immensley with the impact her death had on him.

“I think when you’ve been through something traumatic in life … my mother dying when I was younger – your emotions come back in leaps and bounds because it’s a very different phase of life,” he said in the 2020 documentary Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health. “And there’s no one there to, kind of, help you, and I definitely found it very, at times, overwhelming.”

He also confessed to dealing with anxiety over public speaking, something that’s very much part of the job for a royal. He explained: “Certain days, especially certain speeches as well… you definitely get a bit of anxiety about it.” He added that he chooses not to wear contacts while giving some speeches to reduce his anxiety, sying “it helps, because it’s just a blur of faces.”

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Prince Harry

Harry also battled with Diana’s death, admitting he dealt with feelings of anger and depression, panic attacks and anxiety for years after losing his mother in 1997. He told Oprah Winfrey in their 2021 documentary series The Me You Can’t See: “I was willing to drink, was willing to take drugs, as well as trying to do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling.”

He continued: “And I would find myself drinking, not because I was enjoying it, but because I was trying to mask something… It’s incredibly sad, but I have no regrets at all because now I’m in a place where I feel as though I should have been four years ago.”

The Duke of Sussex has also spoken about how the pressures of royal life and media scrutiny affected his mental health, telling James Corden in 2021: “We all know what the British press can be like. It was destroying my mental health.” He added on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast: “I was hurting and some of the stuff that was out of my control was making me really angry.”

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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

In 2021, Meghan opened up about experiencing suicidal thoughts during her pregnancy with son Archie, due to negative press in the British tabloids. She explained during her CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey: “I just didn’t see a solution. I would sit up at night, and I was just like, I don’t understand how all of this is being churned out.”

“I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered. But I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”

She had previously shared details about her mental health in the 2019 documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, telling journalists: “Look, any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable… not many people have asked if I’m OK, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

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Diana, Princess of Wales

Before her tragic death in 1997, Princess Diana opened up about battling bulimia in her early years as a royal, as well as dealing with post-natal depression after giving birth to her sons. Speaking of her eating disorder, which she battled in the early 1980s, Diana said: “You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable.”

In 1995 she spoke to the BBC about post-natal depression, saying: “I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses… 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.”

“It was a very short space of time: in the space of a year my whole life had changed, turned upside down, and it had its wonderful moments, but it also had challenging moments… I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.”

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Princess Mary of Denmark

The Australian-born princess suffered a heartbreaking tragedy when her mother died when Mary was just 26-years-old, which has – in part – inspired Mary’s passion for mental health support. She opened up about the impact her mother’s passing had on her in 2016, saying: “I was 26. It happened too early.

“It’s so hard to see when it is so close and so personal, but as you get older, you learn to appreciate the time you had together as a gift. And the loss offers something that you wouldn’t have otherwise. It makes a strong person.”

She previously told Danish radio station DR: “I felt alone in my pain. As if nobody understood what I was going through and I had come to a standstill while the whole world around me kept moving forwards.”

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Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

Sweden’s future queen opened up about her battle with anxeity in a 2017 interview with Swedish TV station SVT, where she revealed the impact it has had on her life as a senior royal. She said: “The performance anxiety I had is still there… I’ve been given different kinds of tools and learned to manage it.”

The royal also suffered from an eating disorder in her 20s, revealing intimate details of her battle with the illness in a 2017 documentary. ‘” wanted all the time to do and be so much more than I realistically could do, or could be,” she explained at the time.

Th eprincess even delayed her university studies in the ;ate ’90s to seek treatment, explaining: “I needed time to sort things out and get my balance back again. I needed to get to know myself, discover where my limits were, not constantly push myself too much.”

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Princess Sofia of Sweden

In 2019 Princess Sofia helped establish the the Sophiahemmet Clinic for people with eating disorders, having been the Honorary President of Sophiahemmet since 2016. The clinic was designed to use a special Swedish method for treating people struggling with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders.

There she voiced her support for the clinic and its message to support people battling the mental and physical illnesses associated with eating disorders.

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Queen Maxima of the Netherlands

Earlier this year, Queen Maxima highlighted the impact COVID-19 has had on people’s mental health as she met vritually with researchers, psychiatrists, general practitioners and the mental health organisation MIND. She spoke with them about “among other things, the psychological well-being of children and young people” during the pandemic.

It’s not the first time she’s shown her support for mental health intiatives either. In 2019, she attended the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support conference in Amsterdam, where she spoke about the importance of mental health care in the Netherlands.

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