Meghan’s Revelations Prove We Still Need to Break the Stigma Around Mental Illness
The Duchess of Sussex admitted to Oprah that she had suicidal thoughts while working as a British royal.
On Sunday, the world (or at least everyone on Twitter) watched in growing frustration and horror as Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband, Prince Harry, opened up about their decision to leave the British royal family.
The tell-all interview with Oprah included several shocking revelations, including the disgusting fact that Harry’s family had the audacity to speak of their unborn child’s skin color. But one of the most upsetting things we heard from Meghan herself was that she had suicidal thoughts while being an active member of the royal family.
“Look, I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry especially, because I know how much loss he has suffered, but I knew that if I didn’t say it, then I would do it,” Meghan told Oprah. “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan went on to reveal that palace officials denied her requests to seek inpatient care. She was told that it wouldn’t be possible because it “wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
Hearing Meghan, a literal princess, say those words both broke my heart and filled me with rage. Here was someone in a position of privilege and she couldn’t be afforded help with her mental health struggles. Thankfully, her husband took a stand and made it clear that their happiness and mental health would take precedence over the needs of the royal family.
Meghan’s revelation of her suicidal thoughts reminded me of my own decades-long struggle with mental illness. Nowadays, I am fairly open about my anxiety and depression. But I’m less open about the first time I truly knew that my depression was not normal and that I very much needed medical help.
When I was 18, I dove headfirst into one of the worst depressive episodes of my life. Severe desperation, isolation and struggles to adjust to college led me to attempt suicide. Sobbing on the phone with friends from high school, I took pill after pill of pain reliever hoping to end the unbearable pain I felt day-in and day-out. Luckily, a friend wisely called the police to check on me, and I was rushed to the hospital.
I spent the night on suicide watch as doctors and nurses monitored me to make sure the eight or so pills I took didn’t do any damage to my body. I vaguely remember going into and out of sleep but the image of my mom walking into my hospital room, tears in her eyes, is one that will forever be imprinted in my brain.
In the days that followed, I was forced to attend mandatory therapy on campus and was overloaded on calls from family and friends who wanted to make sure I was okay. But there was one friend in particular who I will forever credit for saving my life.
An absolute angel I met on the first day of college stayed by my side as I learned to cope with my depression and anxiety. She slept on the floor of my dorm room and sang “Tomorrow” from Annie until we both dissolved into giggles. To this day, I consider her one of my best friends and don’t think I’d survive any of my mental health issues without her.
I wish I could say that this incident was the only time I dealt with suicidal thoughts. Depression isn’t linear and doesn’t follow many rules, but rather is like a rollercoaster full of unexpected turns. Last August, a new migraine medication quickly brought suicidal thoughts bubbling to the surface. Unlike my first brush with suicidal thoughts, I acted quickly and got the help I needed.
Sadly, the opportunity to address mental health issues isn’t available to a lot of women, especially if they’re women of color. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Black and Latinx people have substantially lower access to mental health and substance use treatment. This is typically due to financial struggles, healthcare access and even stigmas within our own communities.
While I wish Meghan didn’t have to suffer through her mental health issues, I applaud her for being so open about them now. Having a Black woman so prominently discuss her experience with suicidal thoughts and the steps she took to survive will hopefully crack the stigma around mental health among all women of color.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find additional information at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.