Prince Harry Is Not A Good Advocate For Mental Health

Prince Harry Is Not A Good Advocate For Mental Health Prince Harry needs to be aware how his behavior influences sufferers of mental illness

Prince Harry has become an uninspiring advocate for mental health. With his resources and family support, he could have been a great role model for those grappling with depression and mental illness. I was really hopeful when the two brothers, Prince William and Harry along with William’s wife Kate began their mental health charity Heads Together, in 2016. It was a ground-breaking step, in fact, Prince William mentioned that at that time no celebrity wanted to be associated with mental illness.
Prince Harry mental health Brené Brown vulnerability courage gratitude
Prince Harry advocacy for mental health has been marred by his whining
Furthermore, when they spoke of their grief of losing their mother, Princess Diana, I could personally identify with their loss. I too had lost my mom around the same age as Harry.  They helped lessen the stigma associated with mental illness, bereavement, and addiction.

Death of a Parent in Childhood

Loss of a parent when a child is a major ACE. It is devastating, particularly if it is tragically sudden, like the death of his mother, Princess Diana.  All the world’s eyes were on the two young boys walking sadly behind their mother’s coffin. I remember the feeling of raw nakedness as I walked into the church where my mother’s body lay. Remembering the time still makes my eyes well up.

I could deeply identify with Harry when he expressed how the death of your mother kind of splits your life-story into two parts – before her death and after her death.
We cannot compare our pain, whose is more and whose is less. Neither does privilege or money ease emotional suffering.  And it is by sharing our stories of loss, pain, and suffering can we heal ourselves and empower others to take those little but difficult steps to healing.

Unfortunately, Harry displayed a shocking lack of empathy for his hosts the people of Africa where he bares his soul  in their self-promoting documentary ‘Harry and Meghan: An African Journey.’

The Context In Which We Share Our Stories

It was simply bad-form for an uber-rich Prince to use the backdrop of Africa to whine about his problems.  Instead of highlighting the myriad issues that torment this continent – HIV, poverty, starvation, violence, rape, the list is long.

Yet, Prince Harry and his media-aware wife tactlessly moan about their difficulties coping with media scrutiny. Particularly galling, was their cribbing about being unable to thrive and be happy when compared to the untold suffering of the majority of Africans. That was crass and self-centered.

It was bad manners to use their host’s home (country) to highlight their problems. When we are privileged we have to sensitive to the context within which we share our stories

Difference Between Connection and Manipulation

Our present culture encourages sharing our stories.  However, as acclaimed author Brené Brown explains there is big difference between sharing vulnerability in ways that lead to connection and over-sharing in ways intended to manipulate an audience – and why that oversharing has always led to disconnection.

Whining on the world stage of how his mother’s death, even after 22-years  is still a festering wound smacks hopelessness and despair.

How can an ordinary person lacking financial and familial support ever hope to get better?

Life is Difficult

It was really tough losing my mother, more so with being additional traumatized by sexual abuse, neglect, violence and then having to flee my home for my own sanity. But as my favorite author, M.Scoyt Peck says,

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.

How to rise up and grapple with our challenges is what defines a hero. Courage comes from facing our problems and trying to solve them.

Being an advocate for mental health means being vulnerable while being strong It is important to show fellow sufferers of mental illness that one can overcome and thrive. It’s the only way we’re going to eliminate the stigma,  hopelessness, judgment, and discrimination surrounding mental illness and addiction.  That it can be tackled and one can live fruitful happy lives.

The Effects of Constant Whining

Instead of freeing the psychic pain around the physical event, whinging relives the traumatic event and causes our brain to release stress hormones. According to research from Stanford University, even 30 minutes of complaining every day physically damages a person’s brain.

Moreover, habitual cribbing increases the likelihood of feeling negative about other aspects of life. Research has found that complaining triggers anxiety and depression as individuals get stuck in negative emotions.

What’s worse listening to negativity affects the listener’s brain too. The constant lament of a whinner peels back neurons in the hippocampus–the part of the brain used for problem-solving and cognitive function

One of my aunts would drain the energy right out of me with her constant moaning. And it really irked me because this was when I was going through even worse shit.

Sharing our stories is healing when it is at the appropriate time and context. It is totally inappropriate to discuss personal problems when one is a guest in someone else’s home/country. It smacks of narcissism and lack of empathy.

Woundology – Allowing The Past To Define Our Present

Harry’s constant reference to his mother with regard to his present smacks of immaturity. His mother made some stupid choices – namely not wearing a seat belt among other things. It is time Harry removes the blinkers and see the real facts behind his mother’s tragic death. He needs to stop wallowing in the pain of the festering wound.

We allow something to fester when we refuse to get out of the victim mentality. Caroline Myss coined the term “woundology” to describe how some people define themselves by their physical, emotional, or social wounds.

It looks like, Harry is not working to get beyond his wounds. In fact, he is using his wounds to control and manipulate the people around him. His brother, father, grandmother and the world at large.

He should be allowed wide leeway because ‘poor me I lost my mother’. Truth is many of us have lost our parents, some have even been orphaned but one picks up the pieces and lives.

Instead of blaming the media, Harry needs to understand that only he can change things – namely his mindset. The first step would be to take a hard look at what he has and begin to be grateful for his many blessings.

Gratitude and Resilience

The US army teaches resiliency skills by encouraging their forces to develop the habit of gratitudeHunt the Good Stuff. It counters negative bias, to create positive emotion.

Surely  the British armed forces taught Harry how to be grateful for just being alive and healthy

Developing feelings of gratitude causes brain changes. Feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.  It also boosts serotonin, the feel-good chemical.

Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life.

Bessel Van der Kolk, the author of the book The Body Keeps The Score, explains how gratitude heals trauma by changing perceptions and improving our feelings of safety. The vagus nerve, the most important nerve in our body is activated by acts of compassion and gratitude

Brené Brown on Gratitude, Vulnerability, and Courage

Advocating for Mental Health – Positive Role Models

As an advocate for mental health, Prince Harry needs to understand how his behavior affects the numerous young folks looking up to him. His words and action influence how a teen responds to the loss of a parent or how they will tackle bullying. Are they going to proactive and find solutions or fall into a deep depression.

The Royal family are icons that common people want to emulate and it is not just their clothes and lavish lifestyles. What an example the Queen is, even in her 90s she cheerfully and resolutely goes about her duties and she has been doing this since she was a young woman. Losing her father and becoming the Monarch at 25 must have been very very challenging.

Positive role models help us overcome our shortcomings and motivate us to strive to fulfill our own true potential.

We all love hearing of real-life heroes – Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and many more.  They give us the courage and hope to overcome our pain and despair.  In today’s world, celebrities and royals are looked up to for inspiration and guidance. Despite her failings, Princess Diana helped remove the stigma of AIDS.

Whinging has nothing in common with vulnerability and honesty. It portrays the picture of a loser who only earns people’s scorn and derision.

Prince Harry – Rising Strong

If Harry is still having issues dealing with the death of his mother, he should take steps to address. Take time off away from the public eye. I know from experience being in a safe and stress-free environment really helps heal our brain. Get professional therapy if required.

Gosh, I wish I could have afforded therapy. For those of us, cash-strapped sufferers healing from childhood trauma is really tough. We have to think of paying the rent, taking care of our kids, while hoping that there is one person out there who has my back.

Growing From Our Pain

Whether rich or poor all of us experience loss and pain. in various degrees. But one cannot sit wallowing in our grief and pain. Particularly when one has the resources and support to change our stories and outlook.

It is hypocritical advocating mental health when one continues whining about poor me while alienating his close family – particularly his brother.  Once upon a time, Harry seemed so happy with his brother, William and his family.  Mental illness usually occurs due to relational fractures. Maybe, he needs to reach out to family and friends.

Prince Harry needs to find ways to grow from his pain, more so now that he is a father. It is a child’s birthright to have happy and mentally healthy parents.

I too lost my mother at around the same age, I did not have the luxury of moaning, in a way it was a blessing. I had to pick myself up – I had a child who was dependant on me.

Yes, I wish I had some of Harry’s privileges – I could have undertaken my healing journey earlier. Nevertheless, it is never too late, it is up to us not to let the past define us and rise strongly – be an inspiration to the younger generation.

Prince Harry the choice is yours, only you can save yourself. Blaming and whining will only keep you stuck in the past.

Image Source: Amazon

Further Reading:

The Finders – Dr. Jeffery A. Martin

Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor E. Frankl 

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brené Brown 

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone – – Brené Brown 

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins

Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One Dr. Joe Dispenza

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Marianne Goldyn

So very well written and thought provoking. Thank you.