Prince Harry's disclosure that he sought counselling while still struggling in his late twenties to come to terms with the death of his mother carries considerable power. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he described how he "shut down all his emotions" for almost two decades after losing his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
His description of mental turmoil, including extreme anger and social anxiety, will resonate with many young people. The prince’s description of feeling “very close to a complete nervous breakdown on numerous occasions” is searingly honest. But most importantly, his description of recovery following professional counselling sends a powerful message of normality and hope to young people everywhere.
“Because of the process I have been through over the past two and a half years, I’ve now been able to take my work seriously, been able to take my private life seriously as well, and been able to put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference and things that I think will make a difference to everybody else,” he said.
This unprecedented insight into his psychological journey should contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues. His story is an affirmation of the importance of dealing with emotional issues, especially for young men.
It is also a reminder of the pioneering work of organisations such as Jigsaw in the Republic. Founded by Dr Tony Bates in 2006, it has directly supported the mental health and wellbeing of more than 15,000 young people. Now designated the national centre for youth mental health, it has developed the skills of more than 50,000 people to help communities understand youth mental health and how best to provide support. Jigsaw has shown the value of connecting young people to their community and giving them the resilience to face challenges.
As these young people mature, we can look forward to them “normalising” emotions and mental health. This significant societal change should be supported and nurtured.