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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Prince Harry can help break the taboo that surrounds mental health issues

The British royal is a powerful and credible voice. He may well encourage greater understanding of such problems

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke about their engagement on Monday. AP
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke about their engagement on Monday. AP

The great guessing game concerning the engagement of Britain’s Prince Harry to his American girlfriend Meghan Markle ended on Monday when the couple announced their plans to marry next year. Few followers of the British royal family expected anything else after Markle left her acting role in the long-running American TV series Suits earlier this month. Earlier this year she had told Vanity Fair magazine that the couple were “in love”, which combined with her departure from the series, effectively set up yesterday’s carefully choreographed announcement, photo opportunity and first public interview together.

That interview provided a snapshot of their courtship and relationship, including the details of the proposal, which happened as the couple prepared a roast dinner at Nottingham Cottage, the prince’s residence, as well as Markle’s soon-to-happen “transition” from Suits to a far more formal role in the British aristocracy.

In recent years, the prince has also transformed his public persona from supposed enfant terrible of the British royal family to powerful advocate for serious issues, arguing for the need to shed more light on mental health problems. He is a most credible frontman for Heads Together, the charity he runs jointly with his brother and his sister-in-law. The prince told The Telegraph newspaper earlier this year about how he was “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions” as he struggled to deal with his mother’s death in 1997. “My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand,” he said, disrupting the conventional view of his privileged upbringing shielding him from hurt and trouble.

This newspaper has regularly expressed its desire for the taboo that surrounds mental health issues to be broken and for there to be greater understanding that depression is a condition, like a physical ailment, that can and will respond to treatment. Certainly, the advocacy of Harry and others in the public eye does help to strongly tap away at that taboo. One day it may well smash it all together.