Prince Harry: I regret not talking about my mother's death sooner


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Theguardian- Prince tells event for mental health charity Heads Together that he opened up about Diana’s death only three years ago

Prince Harry: I regret not talking about my mother's death sooner

Prince Harry has drawn on his experience of losing his mother to highlight mental health issues, revealing that he regrets not talking sooner about how her death affected him.

The 31-year-old spoke to footballer Rio Ferdinand, a father of three whose wife, Rebecca Ellison, died from cancer last year, about dealing with the death of a parent.

Harry, who first spoke publicly three years ago about the impact of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a car crash in 1997, when he was 12, told the former England and Manchester United footballer: “You know, I really regret not ever talking about it.”

The exchange took place at a Kensington Palace barbecue attended by a number of sports stars hosted by Heads Together, set up by Harry with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to bring together eight mental health charities and organisations with the aim of tackling the stigma around depression and other mental health problems.

Ferdinand, the athletes Dame Kelly Holmes and Iwan Thomas, and the cyclist Victoria Pendleton were among the guests.

The prince told the BBC: “The key message here today is that everyone can suffer from mental health. Whether you are a member of the royal family, whether you are a soldier, whether you are a sports star, whether you are a team sport, individual sport, whether you are a white van driver, whether you’re a mother, father, a child, it doesn’t really matter.”

Ferdinand later told the broadcaster: “He’s [Harry] gone through different stages in his life that my kids are going to be going towards. So, to get some of his experiences is very rewarding for me and very educational in many ways.”

Harry said later: “It is very easy to look at someone like Rio Ferdinand and say, ‘You get paid all the money in the world, you are a successful footballer, you have fast cars’. But at the end of the day his wife was snatched from him at an early stage of his life with her. So, of course he is going to suffer, it doesn’t matter if he has an amazing job.”

The prince said the event was an opportunity to show that even “unflappable” sporting personalities could experience mental health problems. He told BBC Breakfast: “It is OK to suffer, but as long as you talk about it. It is not a weakness. Weakness is having a problem and not recognising it and not solving it.”

He also spoke to Holmes, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres, and who revealed her experience of depression in her autobiography. She said: “I had depression going through my athletics career, no one knew at all what I was going through.” She said it had only been in the last few years that she had been more open.

Thomas advised anyone experiencing mental health issues: “Don’t feel embarrassed, don’t feel shameful about it if you deem it as a weakness, as I did.

“I felt mentally I was weak, because I had gone from someone who was mentally tough, mentally very strong, someone physically strong, to someone who felt vulnerable and weak. And you are not weak. You are just going through a tough time in your life, where, if you can talk to someone, hopefully, they will help you through the other side.”

The prince has been a visible champion of taboo subjects. Earlier this month he won praise from the Terrence Higgins Trust for taking an HIV test live on Facebook, with the charity describing it as a “groundbreaking moment in the fight against HIV”.

His role in attempting to destigmatise HIV/Aids has been compared to that of his late mother, who was photographed meeting Aids patients in the 1980s in an effort to change public opinion over how the virus was transmitted.

Since leaving the army, Harry has also campaigned to break the stigma of mental health issues that often plague war veterans as they make the transition back into civilian life.

He founded the Invictus Games for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. Describing what inspired the games, he told Good Morning America host Robin Roberts in March it was after he was withdrawn from the frontline in Afghanistan when news of his secret first deployment leaked.

Again, drawing on his personal experience, he said he felt “broken” at having to leave his men behind. “And then I find myself on a plane and while I am sitting there I look through the curtain to the front and there are three of our lads wrapped up in plastic, missing limbs,” he said. “One of the guys [is] clutching a little test tube of shrapnel that had been removed from his head, and he was in a coma clutching this.

“And I suddenly thought to myself, people don’t get to see this. In the whole of those 10 weeks, I never saw the injury part, I only heard about it. That’s how it all started for me. It’s like these people are role models and they need to be celebrated more among society,” he said.

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