In the closing ceremony for the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia, Prince Harry spoke to war veterans about the significance of not only their physical recovery but also of their recovery from mental illnesses. In his speech, the Duke of Sussex explained to the crowd of former servicemen and servicewomen as well as their friends and families that they are an inspiration to people all over the world “who might be struggling with their emotions or with a mental illness” and are proof that it can be overcome. He included himself among those who have struggled with mental health issues.
“I’ve been there, you’ve been there, and we now need to reach out to those who can never even imagine themselves in that place. I hope the ethos of these Games has also shown you that we all have mental health, just as much as we all have physical health. I hope you have seen that our mental fitness is even more important than our physical fitness, because without it, we cannot survive, let alone thrive.”
The prince has spoken before about a dark period he experienced in the years following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, and about the role his brother, Prince William, played in his decision to reach out for help. Although he did not mention William in his Invictus Games speech, Harry did speak of the importance of the support of friends and family in overcoming mental health issues.
Prince Harry explained to the veterans in the audience that the fact that they have seen some of the darkest things and had some of the darkest experiences in the world, suffered mentally from that, and come back makes them role models for people the world over. He told them they are proof that not being “ok” all the time is perfectly acceptable and not something to be ashamed of. He spoke to the cheering crowd about the courage it takes to admit you’re not well mentally and ask for help, explaining that “It will improve your life and the lives of those around you immeasurably.”
Prince Harry shared that, although the Invictus Games showcase physical competition, he believes it’s the mental victory of the competitors that is the truly significant aspect of the game. Acknowledging that the games do shine a light on the miracles of modern science that have changed the lives of so many veterans in a positive way, it’s the story of the mental health of the competitors that is the secret to the success of the games.
“The secret to the success of these Games has been accepting that mental health is the real key to recovery. Our competitors have helped turn the issue of mental health from a sad story to an inspiring one. They want to live, rather than just be alive.”