‘Everyone... is likely to experience trauma’: Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan speak out about mental health at Cape Town engagement

By Sarah Walker

‘Everyone... is likely to experience trauma’: Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan speak out about mental health at Cape Town engagement

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made it a point to discuss the causes that are important to them throughout their tour of South Africa, and on Sept. 24, their message was particularly poignant at a seaside event advocating mental health support.

During the meet-and-greet hosted by Waves for Change, a charity that sees local surf instructors provide mental health services to the area's young people, they spoke candidly about the stigma that often accompanies mental health issues.

“I think most of the stigma is around mental illness, [and] we need to separate the two… mental health, which is every single one of us, and mental illness which could be every single one of us,” Prince Harry said at the event.

“But I think they need to be separated, the mental health element touches on so much of what we’re exposed to – these experiences that these kids and every single one of us have been through.”

Harry and Meghan both participated in a mindfulness activity intended to promote positive thinking at their morning engagement on Sept. 24. Photos: © Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

Harry has previously drawn praise for openly discussing his own mental health and problems he went through after the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

“Everyone has experienced trauma or is likely to experience trauma at some point during their lives,” Harry said at the event. “We need to try, not eradicate it, but to learn from previous generations so there’s not a perpetual cycle.”

Duchess Meghan added that talking to one another and having honest conversations can go a long way to breaking the shame and stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Meghan got in another spot of dancing on Sept. 24! It's the second time we’ve seen her groove on tour. Photo: © Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

“You see that no matter where you are in the world if you’re a small community or a township if you’re in a big city — it’s that everyone is dealing with a different version of the same thing,” she said.

“Globally, I think there’s a bit of a consciousness crisis, and so the fact we’re able to be here together to see on the ground so much good work that’s being done, just because people are willing to talk to each other about it and someone’s willing to listen is huge.”

The pair commended organizations like Waves for Change for the work they do.

PHOTOS: The best pictures from Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s royal tour of southern Africa

The topic of mental health and well-being is one that’s important to Harry, in particular. As mentioned, two years ago he opened up to Bryony Gordon and the Telegraph’s Mad World podcast about his own struggles with mental health issues.

“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 quite a serious effect on not only my personal life, but also my work as well,” he told Bryony in 2017. “I know there’s huge merit in talking about your issues.”

“Keeping it quiet will only ever make it worse, not just for you, but everyone else around you because you become a problem,” he added.

Harry, 32 at the time, then went on to say his failure to address his feelings caused him two years of “total chaos” in his 20s, leading him to seek professional help when he was 28.

Harry and Meghan are in southern Africa on tour until Oct. 2. They have one more day together in Cape Town before Harry heads to Botswana, Angola and Malawi for separate solo visits. They will reunite in Johannesburg in October before the tour wraps up.