Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have one of the most documented, high-profile love stories in modern history. After the challenges the couple faced at Buckingham Palace—public scrutiny, negative media coverage, racism, lack of security—Harry and Meghan chose to step down from the royal family in 2020.
After announcing their exit, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down with Oprah to discuss their experiences as former working royals. However, what came out of that interview was so much more: It was then, for perhaps the first time publicly, that Meghan revealed her struggles with mental health.
Since then, including in their 2022 Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, the couple has become even more open about the mental health problems they faced during – and after – their time with the royal family. This is a recap of their experience. Ultimately, our goal is to show you that mental health problems can affect anyone—no matter their upbringing or socioeconomic status. If you are struggling, you are not alone.
Meghan Markle on Mental Health
When the duchess was pregnant with her son Archie, she was experiencing severe symptoms of depression. In her 2021 interview with Oprah, she revealed that suicide was a “frightening, constant thought” and that she “didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan Markle knew she needed help, but was scared to admit it at first. She was worried about what her husband might think or do. She was worried about the reaction of the royal family. And when she finally got the courage to speak up, her worries were confirmed.
Meghan went to the royal family telling them that she needed treatment. She explains, “I said that, ‘I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere.” Unfortunately, they did not provide her support. “I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” Meghan recalls.
The duchess then went to institution’s HR department for support, and received the same response. They expressed sympathy for her condition, but said there was nothing they could do to help her.
It is hard to say whether this was shocking for Markle, who did not feel protected by the royal family even before this request. Previous members of the royal family, such as Princess Diana, had received mental health treatment, but Markle was being denied this opportunity.
So, why did Meghan Markle share this experience with the world? It was not to criticize the royal family, but rather, to share her struggles with the world. To say something out loud meant she was taking a step to acknowledge the problem, and to get the help she needed.
At the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala in December 2022, Meghan Markle said of suicide, “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 has suffered… but I knew that if I didn’t say it, then I would do it.”
She continued, “But ultimately, if you feel like there’s someone else that has a lived experience. They’ve gotten to the other side, and gave an example of resilience, an example of ‘there is a happy ending,’ I think that’s what most people are probably seeking out in those moments. That’s why I made the decision to just say, ‘If my experience can help someone else not feel the same way, or to know that there’s hope, then it’s worth every second of whatever comes with it.‘”
Meghan Markle echoed this sentiment previously, in her interview with Oprah, stating, “I share this because there’s so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help. And I know personally how hard it is to—not just hard it is but when your voice is silenced, to be told no…This was emails, begging for help, saying very specifically I am concerned for my mental welfare…Nothing was ever done. So we had to find a solution.”
That is one of the main reasons why Meghan and Harry chose to step back from their roles as working royals in 2020. And by doing so, they started to forge their own path to wellness. Harry also took steps to ensure Meghan got the help she needed. He found her a referral to a mental health professional.
Markle described that she was at her “worst point” at the time that Harry did this, and was relieved to finally be connected to someone. “I called this woman. She didn’t know I was even calling her. And she was checking out at the grocery store. I could hear the little beep, beep, and I was like, ‘Hi,’ and I’m introducing myself and can literally hear her going, ‘Wait, sorry. I’m just. Who is this?’ Um, and saying I need help. And she could hear the dire state that I was in.”
This started Meghan’s path to recovery. Through therapy, she learned how to cope with her symptoms of depression and take steps to improve her wellbeing.
Prince Harry on Mental Health
Meghan Markle isn’t the only one who needed mental health support. In recent years, Prince Harry has also revealed his ongoing struggles, trauma, and need for a mental health professional.
Prince Harry has struggled with anxiety since he lost his mother at 12 years old. He’s previously recognized that the death of Princess Diana is a “wound that festers” inside him, and that every camera flash is the “worst reminder” of her life. He carries her trauma and her death within him, too.
In his Apple TV series with Oprah Winfrey, The Me You Can’t See, Prince Harry revealed some of his symptoms and triggers: “Panic attacks, severe anxiety. And 28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life. From freaking out every single time I jump in the car and every single time that I see a camera.”
Throughout his twenties, Prince Harry feels that he was a problem because he didn’t speak up about his struggles. “I didn’t know how to deal with it,” he explains. And because of this, his suffering affected those around him. No one knew he was hurting. “The only thing about keeping it quiet is that it’s only ever going to make it worse. Not just for you but everybody else around you as well.”
He went into detail on this, explaining that he would do anything just to cope with the feelings he was battling silently. Harry says that he was willing to drink and do drugs to escape the things that hurt him. “I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling,” he said. This is common of people struggling with a mental illness—they use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. However, drugs and alcohol can exacerbate mental health symptoms.
Fortunately, Harry eventually did find help and support. He later explained in this series that therapy “equipped” him with the ability to “take on anything.” He credits therapy as the reason he’s here today:
“One of the biggest lessons that I’ve ever learnt in life is you’ve sometimes got to go back and to deal with really uncomfortable situations and to be able to process it in order to be able to heal. For me therapy has equipped me to be able to take on anything. That’s why I’m here now. That’s why my wife is here now.”
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on Seeking Help
Professional therapy was one of the most important tools that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle used to overcome their struggles with anxiety and depression. This, of course, was combined with making lifestyle changes and taking steps to prioritize their own mental health and wellbeing above all else.
“We chose to put our mental health first,” Harry explained during The Me You Can’t See. “That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’ll continue to do. Isn’t this all about breaking the cycle?”
He encourages others to speak up and do the same: “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.”
Those struggling with mental health disorders—whether that’s anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another condition—can help one another by sharing their experiences. The more that people talk about mental health, and normalize therapy, the more we can reduce the stigma around it.
Mental health disorders, and receiving therapy and treatment, are not talked about enough. Often, it’s because people are afraid to recognize they are struggling. They may fear what others will think. They may feel weak by asking for help. Prince Harry wants you to know that you are not alone. He explains in The Me You Can’t See, that “Everybody has some form of pain.” Even those who are successful and happy might be struggling. He goes on to say:
“To make that decision to receive help is not a sign of weakness. In today’s world, more than ever, it is a sign of strength.”
Meghan Markle also encourages those struggling to speak up. At the Ripple of Hope Gala, she recognized how many people are currently struggling with mental health issues, but not voicing them. With lockdown and COVID especially, she does not want anyone to feel alone. “We all need to, when we can, if we feel brave enough, to just speak honestly about your own experience. It gives other people space and the courage to do the same, but more than that, to really feel like you’re not alone. Because I think that is often what can be the largest hindrance when you feel that way, you don’t see a way out.”
She continued, “Be really honest about what it is that you need and [do] not be afraid to make peace with that, to ask for it.”
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have always been advocates for mental health. You, too, can be an advocate for mental health by spreading awareness about it, sharing your story, expanding the conversation, and by helping someone you love to get the help they need.
If you know someone who is struggling with a mental health problem, you can always contact Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment provider for young adults and teens. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more.