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End mental health stigma now

It shouldn’t take members of a royal family feeling shame and uncertainty around mental health to open the door for the rest of us.

It shouldn’t take their going on national television and talking about how hard it was to ask for help, how they asked the wrong people at first, and how they felt about the experience, to encourage others to seek help too.

But if it works, I’m ok with that.

Most of us know how important it is to seek out help when we need it. Yet the thought of revealing our personal mental health struggles can still leave many of us feeling paralyzed in the face of the stigma and labels we might encounter from others.

And that makes sense, because the stigma is real.

It may be gradually, slowly, going away through the brave acts of individuals like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but it still exists.

That’s why it was so encouraging to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle courageously share their personal mental health struggles in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Sunday night.

In the public conversation, Meghan spoke about her thoughts of suicide as a member of the royal family, saying that through the stress and struggle, she “didn’t want to be alive anymore.” The wife of Prince Harry also described how hard it was to tell her husband what she was feeling and the shame she felt doing so.

Prince Harry too, opened up about his own fears and how he didn’t know how to help his wife. “I was terrified,” he said.

Neither of them found it easy to ask for help.

Markle said ultimately she did it only because she feared if she didn’t tell someone, she would harm herself.

“I knew that if I didn't say it, that I would do it,” she told Oprah.

Hearing about Harry and Meghan’s resistance to asking for help is further confirmation of the journey we, as a global society, still need to take to accept that mental well-being, like physical health, requires care and support to maintain.

Their experiences reinforce the idea that anyone can be affected by mental illness during their lifetime and can find help and support.

Hopefully, this very public example will add one more nail in the coffin of silence, shame and stigma, and help more of us share our stories and be accepted for them.

If you need help or just need to talk, the Samaritans Southcoast are available to listen. Call them at 866-508-HELP (4357) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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