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Don’t Let Meghan Markle’s Experience Remain a Missed Opportunity for Change

As a child in a dysfunctional home, I often dreamed of being the queen. Living in Buckingham Palace and being adored by an entire country. Growing up in a world where both Prince Harry and Prince William’s suspected girlfriends were annihilated for their looks, I quickly realized I would not have a chance. I became more aware of how amazing these women who were being torn down were. These women were being pushed over the smallest detail and when reflecting on my own looks, I knew the world didn’t deem me as attractive.

When Wills and Kate got married, it felt like there was a slight shift from it being all about being royal to being a royal celebrity hybrid (two tiers up from the people on “Made in Chelsea”). It was super exciting when Meghan Markle came on the scene because at that moment, she was an already established famous actress — a very new dynamic for the immediate royal family. It really looked like a step into a new progressive age, but the look was completely deceiving.

The Oprah interview wasn’t completely shattering, the racism in the royal family is extremely well documented. As an individual UK citizen, it makes me ashamed. There were many shocking admissions throughout the interview, but the bit that hit me the hardest was Meghan Markle’s suicidal thoughts because she voiced the experience so perfectly.

As a UK citizen, I’ve been constantly bombarded by constant news of the royal family. I have even seen the queen herself (from a distance, but I saw her hat so that counts) a total of four times. Anytime the government wanted to announce something super unpopular, the royal family was used as a distraction.

Throughout my life, I have memories of key royal events. Vividly, I can remember sitting in my granny’s living room while she was crying over Princess Diana’s funeral — and as a very young child, I was very confused at seeing people wail on TV. I assumed it was to do with it being a member of the royal family. I haven’t seen such a public display of grief when a public figure died since. To give contrast, consider when former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, the song “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz” shot up to number two in the charts.

The national love of a member of the royal family is, at its heart, a very strange thing — mainly because it often exists in the rear-view mirror. The reality is lots of people really  hated Princess Diana to begin with, but then when she died, she became held as a national icon. Her death was handled very poorly thereafter by the royal family, especially having the young princes go through a public trauma of walking behind the coffin.

Both the princes have contributed to opening the conversations around mental health, especially throughout the last decade, no doubt at least in part on reflection of their own experience. So, why was Meghan asking to get help for her suicidal thoughts such an issue?

Over time, the monarchy and their power have changed from ruling their countries to being more of a symbolic role. Regardless of what our individual opinions are about the royal family, they set a standard of what is acceptable in society. Meghan reporting she couldn’t get help for her suicidal thoughts because a senior royal said, “it wouldn’t make us look good,” is cruel, and is something countless people can identify with. Not being allowed to get the help they need because of “the perception,” further promoting that fear, shame, uncertainty and doubt.

We say we are accepting of people who experience mental health issues, but when it comes to it, some still fall back to the same old cliché of: They don’t actually feel this way, they’re doing it for attention.

Is it any wonder members of the public pounced on Meghan saying they didn’t believe her? There were also other celebrities who said the something similar, including Piers Morgan who said “he didn’t believe a word.” There have been many articles talking about how difficult Meghan Markle is. Personally, I don’t know her and can’t really comment on her. However, what I can say is I have been called “difficult” so many times, especially in a crisis.

Just because someone is difficult doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of our help.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have created a number of different mental health charities through their foundation. The aims of the charities are incredible and highlighting the mental health issues society is phasing is fantastic. Therefore, it’s concerning members of the royal household appear to hold an entirely opposing — and entirely antiquated — viewpoint. As the standard setters of how our nation tackles the big issues in our society, these issues will continue throughout the country. It’s time for the newer generations of royals, with loud voices and influence on mental health, to step up and lead the way. Otherwise, Meghan’s experiences will remain just another case of a missed opportunity for change, and make “the institution” ever harder to identify with.

Lead photo via Wikimedia Commons

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