“I’m sick of Prince Harry pretending good mental health is all about effort”

The former royal has long been known as a mental health advocate, but his failure to acknowledge his privilege has become increasingly problematic, writes Stylist’s Lauren Geall.

Since stepping down as a senior member of the royal family over two years ago, Prince Harry has made a name for himself as a vocal mental health advocate. 

From opening up about the struggles he’s personally faced to raising awareness of the benefits of therapy, the Duke of Sussex has brought conversations about mental health to the forefront.

But despite how refreshing it is to see such a public figure talking in this way, there’s always been something about the way Harry approaches the subject that seemed a little off to me.  

Of course, everyone has a right to talk about their own mental health – Harry has been through a lot in his life, and I don’t doubt for a second that he’s faced some tremendous struggles. But by approaching mental health from a very advice-led, reflective angle, the Duke of Sussex forgets to acknowledge the main factor that gives him the tools necessary to take such an approach: privilege.

A prime example of this could be seen in a recent video he recorded as part of his work for the mental health coaching start-up BetterUp. 

During the film, which saw him conduct a series of interviews about resilience, Harry asks his interviewees to share the practice they use to stay ‘mentally fit’ – and speaks about treating the mind as “something to flex not fix”. 

The Duke of Sussex forgets to acknowledge the main factor that gives him the tools necessary to take such an approach: privilege.

This isn’t the first time Harry has referred to mental health in terms of work or effort, either. In an interview with Fast Company at the end of last year, he spoke about how beneficial it can be to quit your job to put your “mental health and happiness first”. And during another event with BetterUp in February, he discussed the benefits of “self-care” and revealed how he finds time to fit it in alongside his role as a dad. 

While this is all well and good, it also fails to acknowledge the complexity of ‘mental health’ as a subject and paints it out to be something that can be solved or controlled with effort.

This, of course, isn’t the case: besides the fact that mental illnesses exist (and need treatment just like any physical illness), mental health can be influenced by a broad range of factors out of our control, such as our finances, health or work. 

It also disproportionately affects those from marginalised backgrounds: here in the UK, LGBTQ+ people and those from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems.

Harry, of course, does not fall into any of these categories – and it’s highly unlikely that he’s dealing with any of the aforementioned factors, either. The fact of the matter is incredibly simple: as a man with his privilege, he faces very few barriers when it comes to supporting his mental health.

For Harry, one of the biggest hurdles he has to face in staying mentally well is putting the effort in – but that’s not the case for many of us. 

Putting the work in is one aspect of mental health, but it’s not the only part. And while he makes some valid points – quitting your job to protect your mental health is a completely valid decision, and self-care can be a great way to look after your wellbeing – his failure to acknowledge this privilege, and make out like everyone has the same access to the tools he relies on, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  

Images: Getty

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