Prince William and Prince Harry have both spoken about the struggle of dealing with their mother’s death. (Reuters: Stefan Wermuth)
Australian mental health advocates are optimistic Prince William may have helped to spark a wider conversation about dealing with grief.
In an interview with GQ magazine, the Prince opened up about his struggle over his mother Princess Diana’s death.
During the interview he spoke about the raw grief he felt 20 years ago when he learned of her death.
It follows an interview earlier in the year where Prince Harry spoke about his “mental chaos” while dealing with grief over his mother’s death.
Prince William said he continued to find it difficult to talk about his grief openly.
He said “smashing the taboo” around mental health was the ultimate goal of his decision to team up the mental health charity Heads Together and their campaign.
“People can’t access services till they feel less ashamed, so we must tackle the taboo, the stigma, for goodness sake, this is the 21st century,” he said in the interview with GQ.
For the past year Prince William and Catherine have been speaking up about mental health issues.
In a video the pair made for Heads Together, along with Prince Harry, all three speak about why it was important to them and how speaking about such issues could work like “medicine”.
The two men said that working on the campaign had helped them to deal with facing their grief and to have a proper conversation about it.
“Even Harry and I over the years have not talked enough about our mother,” William said.
“I always thought to myself what’s the point of bringing up the past, what’s the point of bringing up something that’s only going to make you sad,” Harry said.
“It ain’t going to change it, it ain’t going to bring her back.”
‘We need a range of people having this conversation’
Vikki Ryall from the youth mental health foundation Headspace said she hoped the message would connect with Australians.
“It’s a very brave thing to do, it doesn’t hurt the promotion of mental health literacy, other people feeling comfortable to speak out,” she said.
“Ideally there’s a range of people that you can relate to, look at them and go ‘yes I connect with that person, they’re like me and they’ve got a difficulty’.
“And then also people with some prominence — I think we need a range of people having those conversations.”
Those open conversations are what would help the young royals to secure their role in society, said Rachel Bailes, secretary of the Australian Monarchist League’s youth chapter in Sydney.
“You just think 20 years ago this never would have happened, and I think it’s a real evidence of a modernising monarchy,” she said.
She said it was always easier for institutes, such as the Royal Family, to hold on to their past, “hold on to certain traditions like the stiff upper lip”.
“But I think this shows that figures, especially like William and Harry, are really taking the pulse of society as they go on and as they’re leading in their own roles.
“I think they’re really waking up to the fact that this is an issue that a lot of people in society, especially a lot of young men in society, really struggle with — speaking candidly about struggles.
“And so they’re really doing a good thing with the responsibility they have to speak to those issues.”
Speaking out a ‘break in tradition’
Speaking more openly about emotion has started to become a hallmark of the modern royal family.
Claire Isaac, the executive editor of Woman’s Day, said for both princes to come out and speak about mental health was “a complete break in tradition”.
“It’s inspiring in that it completely changed the way that the royals speak — [and] it seems to have been given the all clear by Queen,” she said.
“Cynical people may suggest it’s just done to pave the way for when William is king.
“But in terms of if you are in the public eye and you can talk about something that affects other people, then I think you should.”
But she said she was unsure whether would connect with all Australians as much as with English people.
“In the UK they’re very visibly out there, they’re … making speeches, doing podcasts and radio interviews,” Ms Isacc said.
“They’re a lot more accessible when they want to be in the UK, whereas here we’re only hearing about it second hand — so I don’t know how much of that will filter thorough.”