Prince Harry talks about mental health, ‘genetic pain’ and living ‘in a zoo’

June 6, 2021

The Washington Post

By Karla Adam

May 14, 2021

LONDON — Prince Harry talked about inherited suffering and compared his former royal life to a mixture of being on "The Truman Show" and living "in a zoo," in his first interview since his bombshell broadcast with Oprah Winfrey in March.

In a 90-minute recording with the Armchair Expert podcast, the prince — who decamped to California last year — talked about struggling as a member of the British royal family and said he did not want to pass his emotional pain on to his children.

“I don’t think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody, but certainly, when it comes to parenting, if I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure that I break that cycle, so that I don’t pass it on,” he said.

Harry’s father, of course, is Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. His mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, while being chased by paparazzi.

Harry added: “There’s a lot of genetic pain and suffering that gets passed on anyway. We, as parents, we should be doing the most we can to try and say, ‘You know what? That happened to me. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.’ ”

He was speaking ahead of his upcoming mental health documentary series, with Winfrey, on Apple TV Plus. It is also Mental Health Awareness Week in Britain.

When podcast co-host Dax Shepard likened life in the British royal family to “The Truman Show,” the 1998 film in which a man discovers his life is a reality TV show, Harry responded: “It’s a mixture between being on ‘The Truman Show’ and being in a zoo.”

Harry credited his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, for encouraging him to seek out therapy.

“She saw it straightaway,” he said. “She could tell that I was hurting and that some of the stuff that was out of my control was making me really angry. It would make my blood boil.”

But he countered the notion that Meghan was responsible for his decision to quit royal life.

Harry, 36, said he had considered giving it all up even earlier, in his 20s. He recalled thinking: “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be doing this. Look what it did to my mom.”

The interview was splashed across many front pages on Friday in Britain. The headline in the Daily Mail read, “Just how low can Harry go?” The Sun tabloid paraphrased: “Dad passed his pain to me. I will not do that to my kids.”

On social media, reaction was mixed. While many praised the prince for once again talking openly about his mental health and the intensity of life in the spotlight, others accused him of using the platform to criticize the royal family or questioned whether he understood true struggle.

Shepard, the podcast co-host, suggested to Harry that it was possibly “easier for Oprah to come from where she came from and tell you about her trauma” than for Harry, with his privileged background, to do so.

Harry acknowledged that in “certain corners of the media, it’s very much like, ‘You’re privileged. How could you possibly be suffering?’ ”

But he said “it’s about sharing your story, knowing how relatable it is, because I guarantee you by sharing the vulnerabilities and experiences that you have had growing up” that “you’re going to have a positive impact on someone’s life.”

He described three moments when he felt especially helpless, which he called his “Achilles’ heel.”

“One, when I was a kid in the back of the car with my mom being chased by paparazzi, two was in Afghanistan in an Apache helicopter, and then the third one was with my wife. And those were the moments in my life where, yeah, feeling helpless hurts. It really hurts, and that’s when you think to yourself, ‘S---, like, I got the privilege. I got the platform. I got the influence, and even I can’t fix this. I can’t change this.’”

Harry and Meghan sensationally stepped down as senior members of the British royal family in January 2020. They have a son, Archie, who recently turned 2, and are expecting a daughter.

Harry said when they arrived in Los Angeles, it was like a “feeding frenzy,” with “helicopters, the drones, the paparazzi cutting the fence. It was madness.” They now live an hour outside Los Angeles, in Montecito, where he suggested his family feels more liberated.

“I can actually lift my head, and I feel different.” he said. “My shoulders have dropped; so have hers. You can walk around feeling a little bit more free. I can take Archie on the back of my bicycle. . . . I would never have had the chance to do that.”


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