Prince Harry has revealed that he regrets ‘not talking’ about the death of his mother Princess Diana for much of his life.
Speaking with former football star Rio Ferdinand, who lost his wife to cancer last year, Harry, 31, discussed bereavement at a Kensington Palace barbecue for mental health campaign group Heads Together.
The young royal discussed the impact the Princess of Wales’ death in 1997, when Harry was 12, has had on him when asked by Ferdinand how he coped with the loss.
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Opening up: Prince Harry and Rio Ferdinand discuss grief at a barbecue to promote mental health campaign group Heads Together at Kensington Palace earlier this month
The youngest son of Prince Charles and Diana told Ferdinand that he regrets not opening up about how Diana’s death affected him until three years ago, when he was 28
Not a weakness: Harry said that recognising a mental health issue was key to solving it, telling the former Manchester United star: ‘Weakness is having a problem and not recognising it and not solving that problem’
Regrets: Harry revealed to Ferdinand, who lost wife Rebecca Ellison to cancer last year, that he regretted waiting 28 years to open up about how his mother’s death affected him. Pictured, Harry as a young boy with his mother at a royal function
The prince admitted that it was only three years ago that he began to open up about how he felt about losing his mother, saying he didn’t speak about Diana’s death ‘for the first 28 years of my life.’
The youngest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess of Wales said he’d come to realise that talking was the key: ‘It is OK to suffer, but as long as you talk about it. It is not a weakness. Weakness is having a problem and not recognising it and not solving that problem.’
He added: ‘A lot of people think if you’ve got a job, if you’ve got financial security, if you’ve got a family, you’ve got a house, all that sort of stuff, everyone seems to think that is all you need and you are absolutely fine to deal with stuff.
Ferdinand, who lost wife Rebecca Ellison – mother to Lorenz, nine, Tate, six, and Tia, four – in May last year to breast cancer, discussed how grief might affect his children with Harry.
Harry said of the conversation: ‘It is very easy for someone to look at someone like Rio Ferdinand and say, “You get paid all the money in the world, you are a successful footballer, you have fast cars.” But at the end of the day his wife was snatched from him at an early stage of his life with her.
‘So of course he is going to suffer, it doesn’t matter if he has an amazing job.’
One-time England and Manchester United star Ferdinand said of Harry’s advice: ‘He’s gone through different stages in his life that my kids are going to be going towards.
‘So to get some of his experiences is very rewarding for me and very educational in many ways.’
Heads Together was founded by the Prince and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and has brought together eight mental health charities and organisations to tackle the stigma around depression and other psychological problems.
Other sports stars attending the Sunday afternoon barbecue, which saw Harry flipping burgers and playing French cricket, were Dame Kelly Holmes, Victoria Pendleton and Iwan Thomas.
Harry played French cricket with a variety of British sports stars including Ferdinand, Iwan Thomas and Dame Kelly Holmes
The prince, pictured taking part in a game of French cricket, spoke about how mental health can affect everyone
Former Welsh 400metre star Iwan Thomas shared his story with Harry as they flipped burgers, saying that he suffered depression after being injured
As they stood behind the hot coals wearing aprons the Prince asked former 400 metre sprinter Thomas how the spate of injuries that ended his career affected him: ‘What was it for you, was it a massive gaping hole – was it a form of depression?’
Thomas replied ‘I think yes, depression definitely. I didn’t have one injury that was suddenly like ‘you have to retire tomorrow’ that almost might have been easier – being dealt a really bad blow.’
In 1998 the sprinter had his best year, winning the 400 metre titles at the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and the IAAF World Cup, and he was later tipped by Michael Johnson, who at the time was dominating the event, to take over his reign.
Harry told those gathered that mental health issues affect everyone, ‘whether you’re a member of the Royal Family, a soldier, a sports star or a a white van driver’
Harry, his brother William and sister-in-law Kate have both spoken out in recent years about the need for better awareness when it comes to mental health issues
He told Harry: ‘I’d loads of little niggling injuries whereby I looked like I was going to get back, I could train three or four days a week, I had a couple of seasons where it looked like I was going to run fast again, then another injury would come in.
‘I kept trying and trying, thinking ‘one more season, I can get back’, that’s all I wanted to do was get back to where I wanted to be, then quit, and I never got back.’
Dame Kelly spoke about the mental issues she fought after suffering injuries before the 2004 Olympics, where she won gold in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres.
She told Harry: ‘I had depression going through my athletics career, no-one knew at all what I was going through. I was having treatment and they thought I was crying because the treatment was so hard.’
Dame Kelly added: “It’s really been the last three or four years that I’ve been more open.”
Highs and lows: Dame Kelly Holmes and the prince chat about how depression affected her even at the height of her gold-medal winning career
Former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton (second left) and husband Scott Gardner discuss mental health with (far left) Dr Steve Peters and Harry
The prince said the ‘key message’ is that ‘anyone can suffer from mental health problems.’
He explained: ‘Whether you’re a member of the Royal Family, whether you’re a soldier, whether you’re a sports star, whether you’re a team sport, individual sport, whether you’re a white van driver, whether you’re a mother, father, a child, it doesn’t really matter.’
‘What you’ve had to go through in your day, week, year, (the) experience you’ve had – whether it’s losing a parent, whether it’s depression, whether it’s anxiety, whatever it is – you are actually unbelievably similar to each other in the way you have to deal with it.’
There was sporting respite from the discussions too; during the afternoon barbecue everyone played a game of French cricket.
While Harry and Ferdinand both proved to be master fielders, they were sporting enough to let some of the younger guests wield the bat when they had caught the ball.