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Prince William and Prince Harry have continued their late mother’s efforts to destigmatize mental health issues in recent years. And now, for the first time, Will is addressing Princess Diana’s own struggles with low self-esteem and a subsequent eating disorder.
In a new documentary from British broadcaster Channel Four entitled Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia, William discusses the importance of speaking openly about eating disorders and other issues of mental health with Mark Austin, a former anchor for a British news network, and Austin’s daughter Maddie, who is battling anorexia. According to British Vogue, Will acknowledged the Austin family’s bravery for opening up about Maddy’s struggles. “We need to normalize the conversation about mental health. The fact that you are speaking out is incredibly brave,” he said. When asked by Austin whether he’s proud of his mother for speaking out about her struggles, William said, “Absolutely. These are illnesses. Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health.”
In a bombshell 1995 interview, Diana told the BBC’s Martin Bashir how her tumultuous marriage to and divorce from Prince Charles had affected her self-confidence and mental health. “I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures,” Lady Di said. “I had bulimia for a number of years, and that’s like a secret disease…It’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive to yourself.” She continued, “It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: They decided that was the problem—Diana was unstable.”
Prince William, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry started the Heads Together campaign in 2016 to bolster other charities’ efforts in “tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health challenges,” according to the campaign’s website. Since then, the three have spoken openly about issues of mental health. Most recently, Harry was featured on the Telegraph‘s Mad World podcast, where he revealed his own struggles with depression following his mother’s 1997 death.
“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he said. “I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.” He continued, “My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help? [I thought] it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back. So from an emotional side, I was like, ‘Right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything.'”
Harry revealed that William encouraged him to seek consistent therapy; since doing so, he has been in a much better place. “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.