Prince Harry hopes his Paralympic-style Invictus Games will help counter the invisible mental injuries of war

By Simon Perry
May 08, 2016 03:35 PM
Chris Jackson/Getty

Prince Harry hopes his Paralympic-style Invictus Games will help counter the invisible mental injuries of war.

“The Invictus Games in 2014 smashed the stigma around physical injuries. I really hope for Orlando, that we can do the same on invisible injuries,” he said ahead of the event’s opening ceremonies in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.

Harry has become a leading and articulate advocate for veterans, and he spoke passionately at the start of a symposium hosted by the George W. Bush Institute.

Sitting beside him was former President George W. Bush, who saluted the prince for “worrying” about the veterans. “You chose to do the hard thing,” he said.

Both Harry and Bush have made reducing the stigma associated with invisible wounds a key priority of their work with veterans.

The Symposium highlighted the wounds of war including post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other psychological health conditions.

Harry said soldiers to “keep a watchful eye over each other.”

Whether it’s severe PTSD, minor depression or anxiety, “everyone says the same thing – if you can deal with it sooner, talk about it openly then we can fix these problems,” he said.

“The education needs to be among the forces as well. It’s a sad reality that they’ve served their country and slip off the radar.”

Harry added, “Recognizing it in yourself is a huge part of it. The first step means admitting that you need to seek help. For a lot of guys it’s not part of their DNA.”

The royal and the former POTUS were joined on the stage by Master Sgt. Israel DelToro, who suffered 80 percent burns over his body when an IED exploded in 2005, and J.J. Chalmers, a British veteran who has a new career commentating in the games.

Chalmers said, “The success of these games is to see the leaps and bounds we have taken for physical disability, not just for the military world but civilian street as well, I want to see that for mental health.

“I’ve been given a voice and more importantly I want the opportunity to give everyone a voice to be able to change the narrative because our story – albeit a story with elements of tragedy in it – is a story of triumph. This is an inspirational story and that’s how it should be told.”

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In his cover story interview with PEOPLE this week, Harry spoke about the dark hole that veterans and serving personnel can find themselves.

Harry is in Orlando for his Invictus Games for wounded and inured service personnel. Around 500 athletes from 14 countries are taking part in five days of events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports venue, which kick off on Sunday night.

Tickets for the games, can be purchased on the official site.

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