Virtually the entire world came to a sudden halt on August 31, 1997, when it was revealed that Diana, the Princess of Wales, had been killed in a motorcar accident. In the moments before her death, Diana’s driver had been trying to escape a paparazzo who was in hot pursuit of the car.
The paparazzo’s relentless hunt resulted in a high-speed chase that ended in tragedy when Diana’s car collided with concrete pillars in a Paris tunnel.
Diana, a darling of the British Royal Family, left behind two little boys. At the time, Prince Harry of Wales was 12-years-old at the time, and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and second in line to the throne, was only 15-years-old.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, and in a recent interview with GQ Magazine, the Duke of Cambridge spoke candidly and affectionately about his late mother.
“I am in a better place about it than I have been for a long time, where I can talk about her more openly, talk about her more honestly, and I can remember her better, and publicly talk about her better.”
In the April edition of GQ Magazine, Prince Harry also opened up about the early loss of his mother. He recounted how difficult it was for him to talk about his grief and how he struggled to process the loss.
“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum. So from an emotional side, I was like, don’t let your emotions be part of everything.”
Harry went on to say that when he eventually did begin talking about his feelings “then all of a sudden all this grief came to the surface.” He added that he hadn’t really given the event much thought for 20 years, but after opening up, it brought on “two years of total chaos.”
His older brother, William, relates to his brother’s way of dealing with Diana’s passing, as he too spent about 20 years trying not to think about it too much. Even though he now feels more comfortable opening up about his mum, he says “it is not like most people’s grief because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her.”
In the interview, the prince admits that he envies those who are not in the public eye because they can grieve in anonymity and also have the choice to share their pain or not.
The rare interview with the Duke of Cambridge was conducted by Alastair Campbell, a veteran British journalist who has previously battled with depression and alcohol dependency. There is significance in this fact, as Prince William – together with his wife, Kate Middleton, and brother, Harry – founded a mental health awareness organization called Heads Together.
According to the organization’s website, “Heads Together aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing and is a partnership with inspiring charities with decades of experience in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health challenges.”
The Duke is following in the footsteps of his mother, who was world-renowned for her incredibly generous spirit and her efforts to assist in various humanitarian causes. Prince William told Campbell that he would’ve appreciated Diana’s advice, and “would love her to have met Catherine and to have seen the children grow up. It makes me sad that she won’t, that they will never know her.”
While serving in the British Airforce as an East Anglian air ambulance pilot, William was exposed to the high suicide rate in East Anglia.
“My first callout was to a male suicide and I was told there were five suicides or attempted suicides every day in East Anglia alone. When I looked into it I was shocked by how bad this situation is – suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – which is absolutely appalling.”
For William, the experience was the “tipping point” that propelled him into the world of mental health awareness. William believes that conversations about mental health issues in the public domain may help sufferers feel less ashamed, and will thus be more inclined to seek help.
“Smashing the taboo is our biggest aim. We cannot go anywhere much until that is done. 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.”
In the interview, Prince William expressed shock at how people are so “worried about saying anything about the true feelings we have.” He says that because mental illness is “inside our heads, invisible,” people tend to tread lightly around the subject. Whereas if someone were to break a leg, people would know what to say.
The Duke, the Dutchess, and Harry of Wales, have been very encouraged by the response they have received to their Heads Together campaign that was launched in May 2016. In a statement released earlier this year, the trio said that “we have seen time and time again that shattering stigma on mental health starts with simple conversations.”
The passionate young royals say that “when you realize that mental health problems affect your friends, neighbors, children and spouses, the walls of judgment and prejudice around these issues begin to fall. And we all know that you cannot resolve a mental health issue by staying silent.”
You can find out more about Heads Together by watching the video below or visiting the campaign’s official website.
[Featured Image by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images]