Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Get Candid About Mental Health: ‘We’re All Trying to Find Optimism’
“Everyone has experienced trauma or likely to experience trauma at some point during their lives," Prince Harry said
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are opening up about the stigma surrounding mental health.
On Tuesday, the royal couple took part in a group mindfulness activity at a beach in South Africa alongside Waves for Change, an organization that supports local surf mentors to provide mental health services to vulnerable young people living in under-resourced communities.
While at the event, the parents of 4-month-old Archie, who has accompanied his parents on their tour of South Africa, candidly addressed the topic of mental health and mental illness.
“I think most of the stigma is around mental illness we need to separate the two … mental health which is every single one of us and mental illness which could be every single one of us,” Harry said during a press interview at Monday morning’s event.
“But I think they need to be separated, the mental health element touches on so much of what we’re exposed to, these experiences that these kids and every single one of us have been through,” he continued. “Everyone has experienced trauma or likely to experience trauma at some point during their lives. We need to try, not eradicate it, but to learn from previous generations so there’s not a perpetual cycle.”
“What’s amazing here just in a day and half – barely – conversations keep happening with all sorts of different people. So they’ve been through it and we can learn so much from that,” Harry said of being on the South African tour.
The Duchess of Sussex added that the most pressing global issue when it comes to dealing with the stigma around mental health is simply “getting people to talk about it and talk to each other.”
“You see that no matter where you are in the world if you’re a small community or a township if you’re in a big city — it’s that everyone is dealing with a different version of the same thing,” she said. “Globally I think there’s a bit of a consciousness crisis, and so the fact we’re able to be here together to see on the ground so much good work that’s being done, just because people are willing to talk to each other about it and someone’s willing to listen is huge.”
Meghan continued, “And that can apply to being here, certainly can apply to being in London, L.A. — doesn’t matter where you are we’re all sort of trying to power through and find some optimism.”
The topic of mental health is one that is close to Harry.
In 2017, the Duke of Sussex sat down with podcast host and journalist Bryony Gordon and opened up about his mental health state and the trauma after his mother, Princess Diana, died 22 years ago — and how he struggled to cope with the aftermath.
Speaking with Gordon once again in the Daily Telegraph on Sept. 18, to talk about the details about his upcoming series with TV icon Oprah Winfrey, the Duke said, “When I did your podcast two years ago the response made me realize what an impact sharing my story could have, and what an impact other stories can have for so many who are suffering silently.”
Harry explained that the new series — coming to Apple TV+ next year — will unveil examples of “human spirit fighting back from the darkest places.”
While visiting Waves for Change, the Duke added that the community locals who had suffered traumatic experiences and were now working with the organization are not only sharing their experiences but are helping to provide opportunities for the “younger generation” with “no role models at all.”
Can’t get enough of PEOPLE’s Royals coverage? Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!
Highlighting the nearby townships, the Duke said, “It’s amazing to think that just on the other side of here you’ve got tin huts with all these kids with nothing, and bringing them together a nice hot meal provided by Lunchbox Fund, and the sea of which they’ve been terrified of most of their lives.”
When asked what was the message they were trying to get across today Meghan replied, “I think what’s amazing about being here today as you can see, there’s so much good happening in the world, and there’s so much positivity and all of this diversity and inclusivity — think the focus is on that.”
Harry concluded, “Now they can swim, they can surf.“