LIVING

Prince Harry’s Toronto Speech Highlights Healing Power Of Sport

He also praised service families, and the example they set for others.

09/26/2017 11:50 EDT | Updated 09/27/2017 10:07 EDT

After watching a game of wheelchair tennis with girlfriend Meghan Marke at the Invictus Games, Prince Harry attended a military research conference on Monday that discussed how sports can quite literally make a positive impact on one's mental health.

Harry, 33, spent time talking to attendees at the annual Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) conference about why the Invictus Games, which he helped create, is important to its competitors, who are made up of wounded, ill, and injured servicemen and women, both currently serving and veterans.

"We are dangling a carrot of sporting glory to help reignite qualities which have been worn down by months and often years of fighting. Fighting to find purpose, fighting to reconnect with family, fighting to get fit again, fighting to leave the house and in some cases fighting to stay alive," the fifth-in-line throne said to guests.

He continued: "Sport, of course, is not the only answer, but it is a hugely powerful tool. People find motivation and purpose in many different things. But in my mind, there is no denying the impact that teamwork, competition and fun has on someone's well-being and outlook."

Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation
Prince Harry attends the CIMVHR Conference during the Invictus Games 2017 on Sept. 25, 2017 in Toronto, Canada (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation )

As noted by Hello, the Invictus Games is the only international sports competition for military vets, and is taking part in a study with CIMVHR that "evaluates the short-term and long-term roles of adaptive sport in the rehabilitation of current and former military members."

Researcher Celina Shirazipour, who, along with her team, is interviewing 200 competitors about their experience, revealed some of her study's preliminary findings, including how the Invictus Games is often a "transformative experience" for competitors and their families.

Getty Images for the Invictus Ga
Krista Sequin of Canada celebrates her gold medal in Heavyweight Powerlifting during the Invictus Games 2017 at the Mattamy Athletics Centre on September 25, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation )

According to Hello, a former Invictus Games competitor told Shirazipour that training for the Games stopped him from thinking of suicide.

Harry also read a letter from the wife of a U.S. competitor, who thanked him for creating the Games because it makes her husband happy. The mother of three wrote: "My husband is on the USA team and when he's competing I see him smile. A genuine smile.

"I cry because that's the one thing I can't do as his wife. Thank you for these games! They truly were a blessing because his smile is something we've missed!"

My husband is on the USA team and when he's competing I see him smile. A genuine smile.

Harry also touted the benefits the Games has for society as a whole.

"I have long believed that individuals who wear the uniform are role models for society. Their families understand the true meaning of teamwork, respect, discipline and leadership," he said. "And in a world where this is often lacking, I bet the values by which service families live their lives and the example they set for others through these games, is having a profound effect on their communities and far beyond."

Prince Harry gives the Afghanistan team a quick pep talk backstage at the #invictusgames2017 powerlifting.

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"I am passionate about the role which sport can play in the recovery of body and mind," he added.

The military is a topic close to Harry's heart, as he served in the British Army for 10 years, including two tours in Afghanistan.

The prince started the Invictus Games in London in 2014 as a way to honour injured servicemen and women to help them recover from their "physical and mental wounds."

AFP/Getty Images
Prince Harry honours Retired Captain Trevor Greene of the Canadian Armed Forces during the opening ceremonies of the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, September 23, 2017. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

On Saturday's opening ceremony, the prince explained, "Invictus is about the families and friends who faced the shock of learning that their loved ones had been injured or fallen ill — and then rallied to support them on their journey of recovery.

"And above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women — injured or not — provide about the importance of service and duty."

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