- Markle shared that she had never experienced suicidal thoughts prior to this.
- There isn’t a certain type of person who fits this statistic.
- An individual’s environment plays a pivotal role in suicide prevention.
- We lose a life to suicide every 40 seconds.
In a highly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex candidly shared their decision to step back from their royal responsibilities. Of the many notable points was Meghan Markle’s disclosure of her suicidality. As she noted, “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.” Meghan emphasized that her thoughts were clear, constant, and frightening. Markle’s courageous transparency echoes important reminders about mental wellness. Here are four foundational lessons explored in this interview that can help us to better understand and promote suicide prevention.
1. Mental health problems can arise for anyone. According to the World Health Organization, we lose a life to suicide every 40 seconds. How long do you think it will take for you to read this post? Plug that estimate into the formula and let that number sink in.
Of the 800,000 lives we lose annually across the globe to this preventable cause, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a certain type of person who fits this statistic. While there are risk factors that serve as obstacles in mental wellness and ultimately foster suicidal thoughts, the reality is that anyone can experience mental health struggles. Mental health issues, especially if unattended to, can develop into serious concerns regardless of your nationality, status, career, race, gender, among others need to be taken seriously.
While lack of access to and ability to afford quality treatment are common roadblocks to mental wellness, financial wealth does not necessarily equate to mental wellness. In addition, even for those who are generally well, difficult times can cause mental health to decline for anyone. While the couple has been known to advocate for mental health, Markle shared that she had never experienced suicidal thoughts prior to this instance. To date, many have observed Meghan Markle to be living a modern fairytale and would have deemed her to be not merely well, but thriving. Markle’s transparency reminds us that even those who marry princes can still struggle with mental health.
2. It takes courage to acknowledge that you need help. The stigma surrounding mental health is pervasive, it permeates through cultures across the globe. Even prior to this interview, the Duke and Duchess shared in efforts to reduce this powerful force, such as in the Every Mind Matters campaign. While we are making progress as a worldwide community, stigma still exists and often hinders an individual’s ability to recognize and acknowledge when their mental health begins to decline.
Beyond stigma, it’s difficult to tackle your mental health struggles when your ability to reflect in and of itself is hindered. Markle admitted that when she started to search for a solution, she wasn’t seeing it clearly. Luckily for Markle, her mother and friends helped her to fill in her gaps and acknowledge the problem at hand.
Even when she came to grips with the reality that she was struggling, another roadblock was her fear of how her struggle would affect others, most notably her husband. A common misunderstanding surrounding the complicated concern of suicide is that it is selfish, however, as she describes her consideration for her husband and the royal family, she provides a clear example of how the process, while often hidden, is far from selfish.
While her own mental health was declining, she still had the wherewithal to compassionately consider Prince Harry’s difficulties with mental wellness, especially pertaining to the loss of his mother.
3. It takes courage to ask for help. It is already difficult to acknowledge that when a mental health concern is at hand, and on top of that it’s often harder to find your voice. The Duchess shared, “I knew that if I didn't say it, that I would do it." When someone reaches out for help, a common fear is how others will respond. As noted, she was worried about how her confession would affect Prince Harry, especially due to his own concerns with mental wellness, which have been heightened in recent years. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical release of personal concerns when someone bravely discloses suicidal ideation. He admitted, “I had no idea what to do, I wasn't prepared for that. I went to a very dark place as well. And I wanted to be there for her. I was terrified." While Harry admitted to feeling ashamed of admitting her concerns, he also expressed his sincere hopes for trying to help her find the help she needed.
After disclosing to her husband, Meghan bravely admitted her struggles to the royal family and advocated for herself by asking for help. Markle noted asking for help multiple times, “begging” and explicitly saying that she was concerned for her mental health. Unfortunately, nothing was ever done. Instead, she received was a lack of sympathy paired with dissuasion in the effort of maintaining the royal family’s image.
Her testament highlights a key reason why individuals who struggle with suicidality convince themselves to not ask for help. In this vulnerable state, it can take a lot of energy to make a plea for assistance, and unfortunately, this heartfelt request is not always met with the support, tenderness, or resources required to heal.
The Duke and Duchess’ raw recollection of what it was like to ask for help reminds us that it is normal to hesitate to seek help due to fear of how a confession may affect others, however, it is a life-saving necessity.
4. Mental health isn’t an individual problem. Meghan Markle shared that her mental health concerns arose about a year after the royal wedding. Without mental health awareness, one may minimize her concerns to a personal issue, but the Duchess clarified that she had “never felt this way before.” One may also be tempted to reduce her experience to hormone fluctuations as a product of her pregnancy. However, with a wider, informed perspective, it's evident that her mental health concerns were also influenced by external factors such as family dynamics, the media, and racism.
In the interview, Meghan Markle highlights both how community can be helpful or harmful for an individual’s mental health. On one hand, she shared that her loved ones helped her to recognize the concern at hand when she could not see it clearly. On the other hand, the Duke and Duchess’ dismissed cries for help from the royal family highlight that lack of support can often serve as a hurdle in seeking and receiving mental health care. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that an individual’s environment plays a pivotal role in suicide prevention.
While the Duke and Duchess have a history of openly advocating for the importance of mental health awareness, this interview amplified powerful lessons related to suicide prevention.
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