The glossy series looked great (it’s co-directed by Oscar nominee Asif Kapadia) and the stories shared were undoubtedly moving — from a college student dealing with schizophrenia to Lady Gaga talking about PTSD to Harry himself opening up about the aftermath of his mother’s death — but ultimately, it seemed to encapsulate all the problems with celebrity activism. It was well-intentioned but failed to see a bigger picture. It barely acknowledged that for those of us who aren’t multi-hyphenate mega-stars or former royalty, therapy and treatment for mental health conditions is often expensive and out of reach.
Thankfully their new episode, a “town hall”-style discussion which has been released for free on the streaming platform, goes some way in correcting this course. Titled A Path Forward, it sees Harry and Oprah joined by an advisory board of mental health experts, who discuss the thornier issues dodged in the original doc: the need for better funding, the importance of healthcare reform, the advantages of grassroots activism and the distinct challenges faced in developing countries.
Those searching for more soundbites about Harry’s decision to leave palace life behind will find this 90-minute programme sorely lacking. There are no bombshells or meme-friendly moments (though I’m pretty sure Harry calls his new bestie “O” at one point). Aside from a brief discussion with Robin Williams’s son Zak about grieving the loss of a parent in public, the emphasis has shifted away from the prince’s story.
That’s certainly for the best: watching him relive childhood trauma while Oprah nodded along was starting to feel more uncomfortable than enlightening. Harry’s experiences are heartbreaking: his openness in discussing them is certainly commendable, not least because men are statistically less likely to seek help for mental health conditions.
Speaking out and dismantling the stigma around mental health is so important — it’s clear that Harry is committed to using his profile to do just that. It’s crucial, though, that he pairs this with the less glamorous advocacy work required to make meaningful structural change — and this film is a good start.