The Hypocrisy of the Royal Family Refusing To Help Meghan Markle's Mental Health
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Since March 7, our feeds have been rightfully inundated with responses to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan revealed her struggle with suicidal ideation and racism during her time as a royal. In more than one way, it is eerily similar to Princess Diana’s 1995 interview with BBC’s Martin Bashir, in which she too expressed her deteriorating mental health and her isolating experience as a royal. I’m not the only one to draw this connection; indeed, Prince Harry told Oprah, “My biggest concern was history repeating itself.”
But should we be surprised that the interviews are so similar when hypocrisy runs deep through the heart of the royal family?
First off, let’s make no mistake: There is much good to be found in the royal family’s charitable and campaign work. A simple search shows the extent of the royal family’s mental health work. In July 2020, the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — Prince William and Kate Middleton — announced support for frontline workers affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the nation’s mental health as a whole, granting nearly £1.8 million ($2.5 million) to 10 charities. Together with Prince Harry, they launched the Heads Together campaign for combatting mental health stigma. Further examples abound, going back years; for all intents and purposes, the royal family are staunch advocates for mental health.
Behind closed doors, there seems to be a different story. In the March 7 interview, Meghan Markle revealed that she “didn’t want to be alive anymore.” She said:
“I was really ashamed to say it at the time … But I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought … I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said that, ‘I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere.’ And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
Later, when Prince Harry joined the interview, he said that he was “ashamed” of admitting to his family that Meghan needed help, even when she strongly felt she could not be left alone, when she expressed fear at how “methodical” the thoughts were. It’s so clear from Meghan’s words that she was desperate for help and yet felt trapped with nobody to turn to.
How many times have we, who have experienced very real and frightening suicidal thoughts, been told to reach out for help? How might we feel if we desperately ask for help, only to be denied it by those in a position to provide it? In fact, it’s worth noting that, alongside Prince William and Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle launched the U.K.’s first text-based mental health emergency service for this very purpose.
So where does this leave us? Why does the royal family portray themselves in one way — as charitable advocates for the common good, fighting the silent shame of mental health — and yet, when one of their own comes to them in desperation, they turn away? Is it, as I have written before and as expressed by Meghan Markle, the “stiff upper lip” mentality rife in British culture? As inexcusable as it is, did they deny her help because she wasn’t considered a true member of the family? I find that questionable since, in a statement following the interview, Buckingham Palace said: “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.”
Whatever the reason, the royal family stands to hurt more than their own reputation. Indeed, their failure in helping Meghan could affect a whole generation of those struggling with their mental health because, after all, if Meghan Markle can’t get help when she asks for it, then what might happen to them? And, with British pundits like Piers Morgan arguing his disbelief in Meghan’s sincerity, who else might laugh in the face of those who express their deepest, darkest fears?
If the royal family refuses to give help for one of their own, how are we to trust their sincerity in their continued mental health advocacy?
Matt Sloan is a senior contributor editor for The Mighty. You can follow his own writing on his website, mattsloanwrites.com.
Lead photo via Wikimedia Commons