Prince Harry Opens Up About Mental Health at Invictus Games
As someone who experienced deep grief at a young age, Prince Harry knows about the importance of mental health.
The Duke of Sussex, 34, spoke candidly about his experience to a crowd of thousands gathered at the Invictus Games’ closing ceremony on Saturday in Sydney, Australia. Harry, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, founded the Paralympics-style competition four years ago to honor veterans and wounded service members around the world.
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The dad-to-be started his speech by commending the athletes for their “example of determination, of optimism, of strength, honor and friendship, or as the Aussies call it, mateship,” describing it as “a core value that has the power to inspire.”
He then emphasized what their stories mean to people who’ve never gone to battle but may be fighting their own intense struggles.
“In a world where negativity is given too much of a platform, our Invictus competitors — many of whom have been given a second chance at life — are achieving extraordinary things,” he said.
“They get called heroes. They’re tagged as legends. They’re referred to as super-humans. Now, of course, all those things are true! Right? Well, I believe, that the real power of their example is that they are not superheroes. Sorry to break it to you guys!” he joked.
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“What they are achieving isn’t impossible nor is it magical,” Harry continued. “You have seen it happen before your very eyes because these competitors have made it happen. They are men and women who have confronted a challenge and overcome it. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things… That is something we can all aspire to.”
Then the prince started to get emotional.
“Nowhere is that truer than in the area of mental health,” he insisted. “By simply being here and fighting back from some of the darkest experiences known to anyone, you have become role models for everyone at home or in the stands who might be struggling with their emotions or with a mental illness… You are showing it’s okay not to be okay. And most importantly, you are showing us all that it’s okay to ask for help.”
To conclude, he referred to himself as someone who has faced such challenges.
“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,” he encouraged. “When you accept a challenge is real, you can have hope. When you understand your vulnerability, you can become strong. When you are brave enough to ask for help, you can be lifted up. You can start living, doing, feeling — not simply surviving.”
Harry previously shared that he dealt with grief following the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
“I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he told The Telegraph. “It was 20 years of not thinking about it, and two years of total chaos.”
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Harry’s wife, 37-year-old Meghan Markle, shared a similar message with attendees in her surprise speech, in addition to expressing her awe about her husband’s efforts to create an inspiring event.
“It’s such an honor to be here tonight with all of you and supporting my husband at the Invictus Games, which he founded four years ago,” she began. “In a short span of time, the games have evolved into an international platform of some of the best athletics and sportsmanship you could ever witness.”
Then she recounted how moved she was by one veteran who excitedly gave Harry and her a hug last week.
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“The Novak family from Chicago is a prime example of this very thing,” Meghan said. “When their son Ryan suffered a severe injury leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, doctors said he would never be able to walk again. But after speaking to his mom, Karri, it was clear that it was through Ryan’s strength of spirit, and with the unwavering support of his parents, that he was able to prove all of those doctors wrong.”
Meghan continued: “Not only has Ryan competed in sailing, swimming and athletics this week, but when Harry and I saw him at the finish line of the sailing competition, he literally jumped into our boat — with dexterity and ease, by the way — to give both of us a hug.”
“Seeing Ryan’s mom on the water that day, waving a flag to cheer him on was a moment I will never forget,” Meghan recalled.