Prince Harry has revealed how his brother William encouraged him to seek counselling after two years of ‘total chaos’ as he struggled to come to terms with his mother’s death.
The 32-year-old said Prince William implored his younger sibling to get help after ‘shutting down all his emotions’ for nearly 20 years following Diana’s death in 1997.
But the prince, who was 12 years old when his mother died, admits that he ignored his grief during his teenage years, only addressing it when he was ‘on the verge of punching someone’ in later life.
Before that point, he endured two years of ‘total chaos’ when he became ‘a problem’ to himself – a period which included the infamous Nazi fancy dress and intimate photographs from a party in Las Vegas – but ‘did not know what was wrong’.
In a candid interview with The Telegraph, he said his grief, compounded with living in the public eye, had left him ‘close to a breakdown’, sparking anxiety during royal engagements and struggles in his personal life that he ‘didn’t know how to deal with’.
But the royal – who even turned to boxing to help ease his aggression – says he was saved by opening up about his feelings, leaving him ‘in a good place’ and wanting to do all he can to help remove the stigma around mental health.
The extraordinary personal disclosures – unprecedented for a member of the Royal Family – came in a revealing interview as he launches the Heads Together mental health campaign with William and Kate.
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Prince Harry has admitted he sought counselling as he struggled to come to terms with his mother Diana’s death
Losing his mother
Prince Harry revealed how he ‘shut down’ his emotions for two decades following Diana’s death, something which only dawned on him several years later.
The 32-year-old said his denial led to him becoming ‘a problem’ through much of his 20s – culminating with two years of ‘chaos’ – but that he still didn’t know ‘how to deal with it’.
‘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 told the paper.
‘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.
‘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?’
Harry said he decided to ignore his sadness and instead throw himself into an adventurous and fun young life.
‘(I thought) it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back,’ he added. ‘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.’
He added: ‘It was 20 years of not thinking about it and two years of total chaos.’
Prince William’s support
The prince revealed how his brother William had been a ‘huge support’ in battling his demons and that it was he who insisted it was ‘OK’ to talk to someone.
Harry – who said he knew he was struggling but ‘didn’t know what was wrong’ – said his brother had gently tried to push him in the right direction, but it was only when the ‘timing was right’ that he was able to seek help.
Prince Harry with his mother Diana (left). Now 32, the royal (shown right) said he was ‘in a good place’ after receiving counselling
Diana was killed when the car carrying herself and her lover Dodi Fayed smashed into a pillar inside a Parisian tunnel in the early hours (pictured, Diana’s funeral in 1997)
‘For me personally, my brother, you know, bless him, he was a huge support to me,’ he said.
‘He kept saying this is not right, this is not normal, you need to talk to (someone) about stuff, it’s OK.’
Harry is launching a well-being initiative – the Heads Together campaign – alongside William and Kate.
It is the 2017 London Marathon’s charity of the year and Harry will be joined by William and Kate to hand out medals to some runners as they cross the finish line.
Asked whether he had ever been to see a ‘shrink’, he replied: ‘I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times, but it’s great.’
During a decade in the British army Harry served twice in Afghanistan and went on to meet soldiers in a recovery unit, an experience he said had an impact on his health.
‘You park your own issues, because of what you are confronted with,” he told The Telegraph.
Princess Diana is pictured with her two sons William and Harry in 1988 – nine years before her death in a car crash
Prince Harry and girlfriend Meghan Markle attend a wedding in Jamaica earlier this year
Describing himself as ‘a problem’ through much of his twenties, Harry said as well as seeking treatment he found taking up boxing helped.
‘Everyone was saying boxing’s good for you and it’s really good for letting out aggression.
‘That really saved me, because I was on the verge of punching someone. Being able to punch someone with pads was certainly easier.’
Helping Mental Health
Despite being ‘a little nervous’ and ‘tight in the chest’ about revealing his struggle, Harry said he hoped it would help break the stigma around mental health.
He added: ‘What we are trying to do is normalise the conversation to the point where anyone can sit down and have a coffee and just go “you know what, I’ve had a really s*** day, can I just tell about it?”
‘I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation because you will be surprised, firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.’
He added that he was determined to make a difference while the younger members of the Royal Family like himself are ‘still interesting’ to the public.
He added: ‘I generally don’t know how we (royals) stay sane.’
His mother’s inspiration
Diana believed it was her destiny to help others less fortunate than herself – a belief that has inspired her youngest son.
Prince Harry was only 12 years old when Princess Diana died in a car crash in on August 31, 1997
Harry revealed how William had been a ‘huge support’ in battling the demons surrounding his mother’s death. Right, Prince Harry is pictured on patrol in Afghanistan in 2008
He told the Telegraph: ‘What my mother believed in is if you are in a position of privilege or a position of responsibility and if you can put your name to something that you genuinely believe in … then you can smash any stigma you want.’
‘IT’S OKAY TO FEEL SAD’: HOW WILLIAM HAS ENCOURAGED OTHER BEREAVED CHILDREN TO OPEN UP ABOUT GREIF
Prince William has spent the last decade trying to encourage other bereaved children to open up about losing their parents.
William – who was just 15 when Princess Diana – spent many years staying quiet about his grief, but began speaking publicly about it when he became the Royal Patron of the Child Bereavement Charity.
The future king hoped that by sharing his experience of grief, he could raise awareness of the charity’s valuable work.
Earlier this year, on a visit to the Child Bereavement UK Centre in east London, William told bereaved children that he was ‘very angry’ and unable to talk about his feelings when Diana died.
In one touching moment, he comforted a little girl grieving for her father, telling her: ‘I lost my mummy when I was very young too.’
He added: ‘Do you speak about your daddy? It’s very important to talk about it, very, very important.’
During another visit last year, William sympathetically rested his hand on the shoulder of Ben Hines, 14, who lost his own mother in June 2015, and said: ‘Time makes it easier. I know how you feel, I still miss my mother every day and it’s 20 years after she died.
‘The important thing is to talk about it as a family, it’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay for you to miss her.’
Writing in the Daily Mail in 2014, William also described how he had dealt with his mother’s death.
He wrote: ‘Initially, there is a sense of profound shock and disbelief that this could ever happen to you. Real grief often does not hit home until much later. For many it is a grief never entirely lost.
‘Life is altered as you know it, and not a day goes past without you thinking about the one you have lost.
‘Never being able to say the word “Mummy” again in your life sounds like a small thing.
‘However, for many, including me, it’s now really just a word – hollow and evoking only memories.’
Harry has previously revealed how he is ‘sure’ Diana inspires the work that he is doing, and that he often thinks to himself: ‘All I want to do is make my mother proud.’
‘That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,’ he explained, adding: ‘When she died, there was a gaping hole, not just for us but also for a huge amount of people across the world.
‘If I can try to fill a very small part of that, then job done.’
Last month, Harry followed in his mother’s footsteps by visiting the same HIV charity 26 years after the Princess of Wales.
During his visit, the prince was shown a signed photograph of his late mother from her visit to the Leicester Aids Support Service (LASS) in November 1991.
One volunteer, who recalled the Princess’ visit, said of her son’s appearance: ‘It shows he’s got a good heart, like his mum.’
Harry dismissed previous speculation he may have suffered mental health issues because of his time in Afghanistan, and said coping with the death of his mother in the public eye had the greatest impact.
He added: ‘I can safely say it’s not Afghanistan-related. I’m not one of those guys that has had to see my best mate blown up next to me and have to apply a tourniquet to both their legs. Luckily, thank God, I wasn’t one of those people.’
Harry said his work with the Army’s personnel recovery unit, where he listened to injured servicemen and women talk about serious mental health issues, had helped his understanding.
‘I know there is huge merit in talking about your issues and the only thing about keeping it quiet is that it’s only ever going to make it worse,’ he said.
His love life
Prince Harry – who has been dating American actress Meghan Markle, 35, for the last nine months – did not mention his previous girlfriends Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas and sidestepped questions about his current love life several times
But he said that he was finally in a position to take his private life seriously and said: ‘Of course I would love to have kids.’
Prince Harry described going through two years ‘total chaos’ in his twenties and realising he had become ‘a problem’ to himself – but not knowing how to fix it.
Harry is launching a well-being initiative – the Heads Together campaign – alongside William and Kate. They are pictured delivering a message to London Marathon runners
Although he did not expressly state what he was referring to, it no doubts coincides with two hugely difficult moments for the prince: an infamous Nazi fancy dress and intimate photographs from a party in Las Vegas.
When he was 20, Prince Harry sparked outrage by dressing up for a party hosted by Olympic show jumper Richard Meade in an offensive Nazi uniform and swastika armband.
The prince was forced to apologise for his ‘poor choice of costume’ after a chorus of condemnation by politicians, anti-fascist groups and Jewish human rights organisations.
Six years later, Harry suffered further embarrassment when naked pictures of him from a private party in Las Vegas surfaced and spread across the internet.
In one picture, Harry was photographed in just a necklace with a naked female playmate hiding behind him having played a game of strip pool in his VIP Las Vegas suite.
Another showed him giving the same topless woman a naked bear hug.
Since learning to talk honestly about his feelings, Harry said he is in a ‘good place’ and 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,’ the prince added.
Diana was killed when the car (pictured) carrying herself and her lover Dodi Fayed smashed into a pillar inside a Parisian tunnel in the early hours
Diana’s death would send shockwaves around the world and triggered an unprecedented outpouring of grief in Britain
‘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, who was interviewed by Bryony Gordon for a special podcast, was only 12 years old when Princess Diana died in a car crash in on August 31, 1997.
Diana was killed when the car carrying herself and her lover Dodi Fayed smashed into a pillar inside a Parisian tunnel in the early hours.
The vehicle was being driven by the pair’s drunk chauffeur Henri Paul, who attempted to outrun the pursuing paparazzi.
Their deaths would send shockwaves around the world and triggered an unprecedented outpouring of grief in Britain.
Last year, Harry revealed he regretted not speaking about the death of his mother until he was 28 – 16 years after the tragedy.
In December, he admitted: ‘I never really dealt with what had happened. It was a lot of buried emotion. For a huge part of my life I didn’t really want to think about it.’
He also admitted that his childhood memories of his mother were fading, adding that he can’t remember much of their time together.
Harry revealed how his brother William (pictured together at a service commemorating their mother’s life in 2007) implored his younger sibling to get help after ‘shutting down’
In an interview with People he said: ‘I don’t have that many memories of my childhood with my mum.’
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, and it was revealed in January that her two sons had commissioned an artist to sculpt a statue of their mother.
The memorial will be erected in the gardens outside Kensington Palace, so her sons will also be able to see it from their apartments.
Diana brought up the young princes in Kensington Palace, which became a temporary shrine when she died – more than a million bouquets of flowers were laid outside the railings.
Bryony Gordon, who interviewed the prince for the paper and who has previously spoken of her struggles with bulimia and obsessive compulsive disorder, is running the 26.2 mile course for the Heads Together campaign.