This Hat Blogs: Mental Health and Meghan Markle
Mental Health and Megan Markle
Author: Georgina Carson
Appearance versus reality
During Oprah with Meghan and Harry, the Duchess explains that the beauty of their Australia tour in 2019 made everything appear fine when really “there was pain there”. Later on, Harry makes a similar remark about illusions when his happiness in previous years is questioned: “Enjoying the life because there were photographs of me smiling while I was shaking hands and meeting people? … That’s what’s expected … You wipe your tears away, shake off whatever you’re thinking about and you have got be on your A-game”.
The conception of someone being happy because they appear so is archaic. There are countless photographs of people smiling who have gone on to take their own life days later. In fact, the term “smiling depression” has been coined to describe an individual who is struggling with the mental health condition internally whilst appearing happy or content externally. Particularly in the age of social media, it is concerning that someone being seen to be happy can be so easily conflated with knowing them to be happy.
Halfway through the interview, Meghan provides a poignant and shocking example of this. A photograph of her and Harry at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 was sent to her by a friend because they looked so good. In fact, Meghan recounts how she had shared her suicidal thoughts with her husband only earlier that day and can only see how tightly he is gripping her hand in the picture. She explains, “You can see the whites of our knuckles, because we are smiling and doing our job but we’re both just trying to hold on”.
Maintaining face as part of your job
The power of speaking out
Meghan even describes seeking help from Human Resources, as one would do in a corporate environment, only to be told that she did not qualify for the support of a paid employee. This will be an important but discouraging learning for many, simultaneously representing an example of someone finding the courage to ask for help and a warning of how this can still not be enough. Nonetheless, the outreach by the couple internally to the institution and now externally to the world demonstrates their commitment to their own mental health and will no doubt help shift the narrative going forwards.
However, both Harry and Meghan use the word “ashamed” when describing their initial feelings around her mental health specifically. This was surprising to hear, particularly from Harry who has been such an advocate for mental health. Despite his own openness about the impact of his mother’s death and support of his brother and sister-in-law’s initiative Heads Together, his reaction underlines the continued negative attitudes surrounding mental health as a taboo subject Importantly though he now sits next to his wife in support and further admits his own struggles (“It was desperate … I went to a very dark place as well … I was terrified”).
There is immense power in talking openly about mental health. It can help others to understand their own experiences. It can increase funding for charities and initiatives. It can continue to chip away at the historical barriers to acceptance of mental health in its entirety. Questions about the veracity of Meghan’s experiences, such those created as by Piers Morgan, threaten the whole potency of speaking out. However, the subsequent public backlash and resignation of Piers Morgan from ‘Good Morning Britain’ indicates progress for the nation as a whole.