In a 2021 exclusive interview, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, sat down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss Prince Harry, mental illness and their exit from the royal family. The two-hour interview was packed with shocking reveals that left even Oprah, the queen of prime time, nearly speechless.
Among these revelations were claims of racism within the royal family, a lack of support for Meghan learning the ropes of being a royal and most notably, the Duchess opening up about her struggle with mental illness.
Prince Harry, Mental Illness and Megxit
Prince Harry was introduced to Meghan Markle, an American actress famous for her role on the television drama Suits, in July of 2016. They were set up by a friend for a blind date and clearly, there was a spark. Markle was immediately swept into a whirlwind romance, with the world watching closely.
The British press didn’t take kindly to Meghan from the get-go. As a divorcee and a woman of color born to a white father and black mother, she faced unfair negative, and at times racist, publicity across the UK.
In November of 2016, Prince Harry released a formal statement that acknowledged their relationship and condemned the press for how they were treating her. Given his history and what happened to his mother, Princess Diana, it’s not hard to see why he was concerned for Meghan’s safety.
Following months of speculation, Harry and Meghan announced their engagement in November 2017, and they tied the knot on May 19, 2018. However, the marriage, and the birth of their first child a year later, didn’t stop the slew of negative comments and character defamation from the press. Rumors ran wild about Meghan’s behavior inside Buckingham Palace, and countless outlets baselessly reported that Harry was being manipulated by her.
Seemingly out of the blue, Harry and Meghan announced on their official Instagram account on January 8, 2020, that they would be stepping back from their roles as senior members of the royal family. They then spent some time in Canada before moving to the United States just as the global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization.
What the public had no inkling of was the struggle Meghan Markle and her husband Harry faced behind the scenes. Meghan’s mental health had taken a dark turn as a result of the media coverage and the restricted life she was living in the UK. As she shared with Oprah, it was a really challenging time for her.
During the 2021 interview, Markle got candid about how severely the negative media attention affected her while she was living in the UK with Harry. She says she was encouraged to stay home more so as not to draw attention to herself, despite leaving home only once in a couple of months. The isolation and overwhelming attacks on her character drove Meghan to a dark place.
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” the Duchess told Oprah. “That was a clear and real and frightening and constant thought.”
She went on to say that she opened up to Harry for the first time about having these suicidal thoughts in 2019, prior to an event they were supposed to attend at Royal Albert Hall. Upon hearing this, Harry suggested she stay home from the event to which Meghan says she responded, “I can’t be left alone.”
Meghan Markle’s Mental Health Story Encourages Others to Speak Up
Meghan bravely discussed the feelings she experienced when struggling with suicidal thoughts and how challenging it is to confide in someone you love. “I was ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. But I knew that if I didn’t say it, then I would do it,” Meghan said in the Oprah interview.
In addition to the challenge of opening up to her husband, Markle also faced pushback when openly asking for professional help to address her suicidal thoughts.
“I went to the institution. And I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help,” Markle told Oprah. “I said, ‘I never felt this way before and I need to go somewhere’ … I was told that I couldn’t. That it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
Hearing a woman of Meghan’s status explain how hard it is to open up and then be told no when dealing with mental illness is an alarm bell that people need to pay attention to. It’s never easy to admit to yourself that you’re dealing with a mental illness that needs treatment, and it’s often more difficult to find the words to ask someone for help.
Meghan speaking out about the lack of support she received is, hopefully, a wake-up call to check on the people in your life. If someone reaches out to you and tries to tell you they need to talk or want to seek treatment, it’s critical that you become a support for them, rather than an obstacle.
For those who are struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or other mental health crises, it’s important to realize that speaking about it helps, and being able to see how Meghan’s life changed for the better once she was honest with Harry about how she was feeling is a positive example of a hopeful future.
Changing the Conversation Around Suicidal Thoughts
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and in 2019 alone there were 1.38 million suicide attempts. Often, people are dealing with these thoughts long before making an attempt to take their own life, and it’s during this period that seeking help can save lives. The stigma around suicidal thoughts still exists, and that needs to change. People shouldn’t fear asking for help because they think people will judge them or label them in a negative way.
Depression and the resulting suicidal thoughts are an illness that requires treatment to work through. If you wouldn’t hesitate to seek help for a physical illness, why is a mental illness any different? Luckily, the conversation is beginning, and as celebrities like Meghan Markle bravely share their experiences, they empower people everywhere to speak up because they realize they’re not alone.
You Are Never Alone
At FHE, we have a team of compassionate counselors who can walk you through treatment options for dealing with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Remember that you’re not alone and help is just a phone call away. Contact us today at (833) 596-3502 to start your path to recovery.