Prince Harry praised as 'inspiring' by mental health experts after opening up about his grief

Sean Morrison

Prince Harry has been praised for removing stigma surrounding mental health after he spoke about counselling that helped him come to terms with his mother’s death.

Harry, who was 12 when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash, said it was not until his late 20s began processing his grief.

The 32-year-old spent almost 20 years “not thinking” about her death but eventually sought help after two years of “total chaos”, he said in a candid interview with the Daily Telegraph.

He has been praised for the “inspiring” interview by mental health charities, celebrities and politicians who themselves have had battles with grief.

Mental health charity Mind described the prince’s decision to speak out as “a true turning point”.

And campaign group Time to Change said he "will have helped change attitudes" by sharing his experiences.

Royals: Princess Diana with Prince Harry in London, August 1995 (REUTERS)

Journalist Robert Peston, following Harry’s interview, said mental health services in the UK are underfunded, adding: “Hope Prince Harry interview increases pressure for more NHS mental health resources.”

He added that he hopes the revelations will lessen the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues.

Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna wrote on Twitter: “Big, big respect to Prince Harry for opening up about his mental health and grief.”

“Losing a parent so young is v.tough. I lost my Dad at 13 -doing so in the public eye wld have been harder still.”

And comedian David Walliams wrote: “Good for Price Harry for talking openly about his mental health.”

Prince Harry admitted that that shutting down his emotions after losing his mother had "a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well".

He said the tipping point was he felt “on the verge of punching someone” and facing anxiety when he carried out royal engagements.

During the interview, he said: "My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?

"[I thought] it's only going to make you sad, it's not going to bring her back. So from an emotional side, I was like 'right, don't ever let your emotions be part of anything'.

"So I was a typical 20, 25, 28-year-old running around going 'life is great', or 'life is fine' and that was exactly it.

"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."

The prince said he eventually sought help after his brother told him he needed to deal with his feelings.

He told of how boxing "saved" him by helping him deal with aggression after he came close to "punching someone" when he was 28.

"It was 20 years of not thinking about it and two years of total chaos," he explained.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: "It's inspiring to see Prince Harry speaking out about his experiences.

“It shows how far we have come in changing public attitudes to mental health that someone so high-profile can open up about something so difficult and personal.

"We know that this will have a huge impact on people who are still struggling in silence with their mental health - every time someone in the public eye speaks up we know that it encourages ordinary members of the public to do the same.”

"Prince Harry speaking so candidly is a true turning point that shows that as a society we must no longer adopt a 'stiff upper lip' attitude and that we need to talk openly about mental health, something that affects us all directly."

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said Harry sharing his experiences will change attitudes towards mental health treatment all over the world.

She added: "It was a dream of mine 20 years ago that we'd see the royal family join sports people, music stars, politicians and business leaders as well as everyday people in sharing their mental health experiences in all sorts of communities."