Prince Harry Helps Blind Veteran as He Encourages Mental Health Discussion: 'It Is Okay to Have Depression'
"It is okay to have depression, it is okay to have anxiety and it is okay to have an adjustment disorder," Prince Harry said
Prince Harry lent a helping hand to a blind veteran taking part in a panel discussion at the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London on Thursday.
The royal, who served in the Army for 10 years and was twice deployed to Afghanistan, took part in an open conversation along with three veterans of the U.K. and U.S. Armed Forces: Caroline Buckle, Philip Eaglesham and Ivan Castro.
Harry shared a special moment with Castro as he helped him across the stage. Castro was blinded and near death following a battle in Iraq in 2006, but he fought his way back and returned to active duty and began participating in marathons and extreme races around the world. Castro is running in the Boston Marathon on behalf of Heads Together — Harry, Prince William and Princess Kate‘s mental health charity.
Together, the group discussed their personal experiences, including the management of mental health challenges.
“It is incredibly difficult to talk about mental health in the Armed Forces. It is still a very difficult conversation,” Harry said during the panel. “As a military person, once you put that uniform on during your training, you are taught to be invincible and not to let anybody down. However, a lot of individuals prefer turning to alcohol rather than a friend.”
He continued, “I am saying at this time to all the military people in this room and beyond — it is okay to have depression, it is okay to have anxiety and it is okay to have an adjustment disorder.
“We need to improve the conversation. We all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health.”
Mental health awareness is one of the main focuses for Harry and his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Princess Kate. Together, they front the Heads Together campaign, with the aim to change the conversation on mental health.
The prince then joined delegates to listen to presentations offering perspectives on military mental health in the U.K., U.S. and Canada.
WATCH: Prince Harry Leads A Panel With Three Veterans On Having Open Conversations About Mental Health
“Most of the flashbacks I’ve had have not been that brutal,” he told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “I haven’t seen what other guys have seen. There’s all sorts of things that can happen through your life, that if you don’t deal with it, you don’t talk about it, then it can end up affecting you in later life.”
Acutely aware of servicemen and women’s loss, he sympathizes with those who’ve lost friends “blown up next to you . . . You have that guilt that it should have been you.
“Once you’re in that dark hole, that slide show is constant, one after the other. Those who do suffer from [flashbacks], we need to be able to help them. It s not a life sentence, far from it. If we re able to talk about it and give them the platform, then great.”