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Prince Harry shares emotional struggles after Diana's death. Prince Harry has disclosed that he sought counselling after enduring two years of “total chaos” while still struggling in his late twenties to come to terms with the death of his mother.
The Prince says in an interview with The Telegraph that he “shut down all his emotions” for almost two decades after losing his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, despite his brother, Prince William, trying to persuade him to seek help.
Disclosing that he has spoken to a professional about his mental health, he describes how he only began to address his grief when he was 28 after feeling “on the verge of punching someone” and facing anxiety during royal engagements.
Describing the “quite serious effect” that losing his mother had on his personal and professional life, he tells how living in the public eye left him feeling he could be “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions”.
The Prince, now 32, turned to counsellors and even took up boxing. He says he is now in “a good place”.
Prince Harry has decided to give an unprecedented insight into his past in the hope it will encourage people to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
He has spoken to Bryony Gordon for the first episode of her podcast, Mad World, in which she will interview high-profile guests about their mental health experiences.
The 30-minute conversation is one of the most candid insights into the innermost thoughts of a modern young member of the Royal family. The Prince, together with his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have set up Heads Together, a charity which promotes good mental well-being.
Prince Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, says in the podcast that he spent his teenage years and twenties determined not to think about her.
“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he said.
“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”
Asked whether he had been to see a 'shrink' to offload his thoughts, he said: “I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times, but it’s great.”
The Prince admitted that at times he had struggled with aggression and turned to boxing as an outlet for his frustration.
“During those years I took up boxing, because everyone was saying boxing is good for you and it’s a really good way of letting out aggression,” he said.
“And that really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier.”
He eventually sought support with the encouragement of his brother and others close to him, who told him: “Look, you really need to deal with this. It is not normal to think that nothing has affected you.”
Since learning to talk honestly about his feelings, he said, he now feels able to put “blood, sweat and tears” into making a difference for others.
“The experience I have had is that once you start talking about it, you realise that actually you’re part of quite a big club,” he said. Later this year, the Prince and the Duke will commemorate the 20th anniversary of their mother’s death, commissioning a statue and presenting awards in her name to honour “kindness, compassion and service”.
Prince Harry said of his loss: “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’.
He said he now counts himself very lucky that it was “only two years … of total chaos” before he learnt how to talk about it. “I just couldn’t put my finger on it,” he said. “I just didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
Even at royal engagements, he said, he had found himself battling a “flight or fight” reaction without properly understanding why. Once he started opening up to friends, he added, he found those same friends felt able to “unravel their own issues”.
“Because of the process I have been through over the past two and a half years, I’ve now been able to take my work seriously, been able to take my private life seriously as well, and been able to put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference and things that I think will make a difference to everybody else.”
Prince Harry speaks to the Telegraph's Bryony Gordon for the first episode of her new podcast, Mad World, where she interviews guests about their mental health experiences. The half-hour conversation provides listeners with a candid insight into the inner-most thoughts of a modern young royal. (April 2017)