A royal shift in mental health attitudes
Christmas has come very early indeed for political nerds - a full three years in fact - after our Prime Minister swapped her holiday hiking boots for running shoes.
Theresa May returned from a walking break in North Wales and almost immediately caught out her political rivals by announcing the beginning of a seven week election marathon.
Despite the fact that I have yet to meet anybody other than a journalist or political wonk who is genuinely excited by the prospect of the General Election, it has dominated the headlines for the past week and will continue to do so for the next month-and-a-half. While this is completely understandable, it does mean that other news will take second billing which is a shame, especially when the message is as strong as the one conveyed by Princes William and Harry in the hours before the election was called.
The decision by the most popular members of the Royal Family to talk publicly about their struggles following the horrific death of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, 20 years ago is a hugely significant one. Harry, the jovial rock star of the House of Windsor, did us all a favour when he spoke candidly about how he belatedly sought counselling to deal with the grief which he had suppressed for many years.
His elder brother, the future king, has spoken about how the British obsession with maintaining a stiff upper lip at all times is potentially damaging to our health. That two of our most famous, not to mention privileged, men have chosen to talk so openly about mental health, while spearheading the Heads Together campaign, is a game changer.
Despite all the wonderful work by both the NHS and dedicated charities, there is still a huge stigma attached to talking about what is on our minds.
There has been the inevitable criticism from some including those who point out that the fifth person in line to the throne won’t have the wait for counselling that most of us face.
As someone who has used the NHS counselling services in the past five years, I can vouch for the fact that it certainly isn’t a quick process.
It is something which I personally found very useful and while I still, like all of us, have bad days, it has helped me lay many of my demons to rest.
Like the princes, I lost a parent when I was a young boy and I too bottled up my emotions because that is what men are supposed to do. This overwhelming grief, combined with the onset of adolescence made for particularly difficult teenage years.
While I did receive some professional help as a very angry young man, I didn’t properly engage with those who were trying to assist me.
Like Harry, it took until my adult years for me realise that I had issues which I couldn’t deal with on my own and that these feelings were nothing to be ashamed of.
I now bore my loved ones by being evangelical about the need to talk.
Given that there cannot be anyone out there who doesn’t know at least one person who could benefit from professional help or guidance, then I would suggest that the under pressure mental health services should be high on the political agenda until we go to the polls.
If you want to speak to someone about mental health, contact Mind on 03001233393
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