LONDON — Prince Harry has broken with royal tradition of maintaining silence about mental health issues by speaking candidly of his severe emotional problems following the death of his mother Princess Diana.
The 32-year-old prince told The Daily Telegraph in an interview published Monday that he had nearly suffered breakdowns since his mother's 1997 death in a car crash and had needed counselling in his late 20s.
He told the newspaper he "shut down all his emotions'' for nearly 20 years and had been "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.''
He describes a long, painful process of refusing to face his sense of loss that only came to an end when he was in his late 20s and sought professional counselling to cope with the pressures and unhappiness.
"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?'' he said of his teens and 20s, a period in which he embarked on a successful military career but also occasionally attracted unwanted headlines, notably for being photographed playing "strip billiards'' in Las Vegas.
Princess Diana and Prince Harry. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
He said the long suppression of his grief eventually led to "two years of total chaos.''
He said he was pretending that life was great until he started counselling and faced his problems head on.
"All of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with,'' he said.
Prince William and Prince Harry stand outside Westminster Abbey at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales on September 6, 1997 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein)
Along with his brother Prince William and sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge, Harry has worked with a charity that promotes mental health. They have argued that mental health problems must be given the same priority as other illnesses and should be spoken about openly and without stigma.
Harry told interviewer Bryony Gordon, who has written extensively about her own struggles with depression and other issues, that he is in a "good place'' now, and praised William for helping him seek help after many years of suffering in silence.
Harry has never before spoken publicly about his problems dealing with Diana's death.