Content Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation. It’s no secret that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a tough time as senior members of the royal family, but until recently, no one realized exactly how tough a time they’d had. Earlier this year, in her now-famous interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Duchess of Sussex revealed that during her pregnancy with Archie she experienced suicidal thoughts. And in an episode of his Apple TV+ series The Me You Can’t See, Harry sheds more light on what that was like for him.
“I was ashamed to have to admit it to Harry,” an emotional Meghan said during the earlier Oprah interview. “I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.” Her revelation to Harry occurred as the couple prepared to attend a charity event during Meghan’s sixth month of pregnancy.
During his docuseries on mental health, Prince Harry recalled that emotional night and what led up to it.
“We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job, but Meghan was struggling,” he said.
“People have seen the photograph of us squeezing each other’s hands as we walked into the Royal Albert Hall in London for a charity event. She was six months pregnant at the time. What perhaps people don’t understand is, earlier that evening, Meghan decided to share with me the suicidal thoughts and the practicalities of how she was going to end her life,” he recalled.
“The scariest thing for her was her clarity of thought. She hadn’t ‘lost it.’ She wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t self-medicating, be it through pills or through alcohol. She was absolutely sober. She was completely sane. Yet in the quiet of night, these thoughts woke her up.”
He said thoughts of Meghan leaving him alone — and potentially taking their unborn child with her — are what ultimately prevented her from taking her life. “The thing that stopped her from seeing it through was how unfair it would be on me, after everything that had happened to my mum and to now to be put in a position of losing another woman in my life — with a baby inside of her, our baby.”
Postpartum depression is a widely known mental health issue but pregnancy-related depression doesn’t just happen during the postpartum period — prenatal depression is very real and very misunderstood. Studies have shown that up to 25 percent of pregnant women live with prenatal depression — and it frequently goes untreated — and as many as 0.6 percent of pregnant women consider or attempt suicide. The condition affects everyone differently and many of those who experience it wrongly assume that it’s something they should be ashamed of, something at odds with the stereotypical glowing and happy pregnant woman.
When she reached out to the palace for help, Markle said she was turned away. “I went to one of the most senior people to get help,” she said. “I was told I couldn’t because it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” the Duchess told Winfrey. “So I went to the top lady, sobbing, and I said ‘What do I do? I’m coming to you, what do I do?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know what you should do. Charles is hopeless.’ And that was it, and that was help. So I didn’t go back to her again for help, because I don’t go back again if I don’t get it the first time.”
Harry admitted that he wished he’d dealt with Meghan’s admission differently. “I’m somewhat ashamed of the way that I dealt with it,” he told Oprah in The Me You Can’t See. “And of course, because of the system that we were in and the responsibilities and the duties that we had, we had a quick cuddle and then we had to get changed, had to jump in a convoy with a police escort and drive to the Royal Albert Hall for a charity event. Then step out into a wall of cameras and pretend as though everything’s OK.
“There wasn’t an option to say, ‘You know what, tonight, we’re not going to go,’ because just imagine the stories that come from that,” he added. “While my wife and I were in those chairs, gripping each other’s hand, the moment the lights go down, Meghan starts crying. I’m feeling sorry for her, but I’m also really angry with myself that we’re stuck in this situation. I was ashamed that it got this bad. I was ashamed to go to my family. Because to be honest with you, like a lot of other people my age could probably relate to, I know that I’m not going to get from my family what I need.”
On the decision to leave the U.K. and move to California, Harry said he was aware of the parallels between what Meghan was facing and what his mother Princess Diana faced during her life. “I then had a son who I’d rather be solely focused on, rather than every time I look in his eyes wondering whether my wife is going to end up like my mother and I’m going to have to look after him myself.”
On protecting his mental health and the mental health of those he loves, Harry said, “Now I will never be bullied into silence.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. You can also head to your nearest emergency room or call 911.
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