Prince Harry's advocacy for mental health awareness took a personal turn on Sunday (Apr. 16) when the royal opened up about the struggles he faced following the death of his mother Princess Diana in 1997.
When the late Princess of Wales died, the British people lost their princess. But for Prince Harry, that was the moment he lost his mum.
“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 during a 30-minute interview for The Telegraph‘s mental health podcast “Mad World,” hosted by Bryony Gordon.
Harry shared that to avoid feeling any pain he blocked out thinking about his mother, opting instead to stick his head in the sand. And the grief he kept bottled up for more two decades resulted in anger and anxiety.
“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 told Bryony. “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.”
Prince Harry’s interview reveals intimate details of what happens after you lose someone you love, and how that sense of loss never disappears. Prince William, who was 15 when Princess Diana died, told his brother that what he was feeling was normal, but his behaviour was not and encouraged him to see a therapist. And a few years ago, Harry finally did.
“I was a typical 20, 25, 28-year-old running around going ‘life is great,’ or ‘life is fine’ and that was exactly it,” said Harry, who is now 32. “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.”
Cue headlines around the world about Prince Harry and the fact that he sought counselling to deal with the loss of his mother—a topic that is rarely discussed so openly by the Royal Family.
This isn’t the first time he’s spoken frankly about issues close to his heart. After his romance with actress Meghan Markle sparked a media frenzy, Harry released a letter, on Kensington Palace letterhead, defending his girlfriend from some of the racist and sexist remarks that people had made.
That letter was considered an “unprecedented” move by the monarchy, which seldom responds to rumours in the media. But like his interview with The Telegraph, Prince Harry’s more candid moments benefit us all.