Constant criticism, much of which was sexist, racist, or simply misplaced, seems to have been the reason behind Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to “step back” from their official royal duties and distance themselves from the royal family earlier this year. And now the Duchess of Sussex is opening up about the effect all the online abuse has had on her mental health.
In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Markle joined her husband, Prince Harry, for a candid discussion on the podcast “Teenage Therapy.” Opening up about her own struggles with mental health, she said someone informed her that she “was the most trolled person in the entire world, male or female,” in 2019. For much of the time, she pointed out, she wasn’t even in the public eye.
“Now, eight months of that, I wasn’t even visible,” Markle said on the podcast. “I was on maternity leave or with the baby. But what was able to just be manufactured and churned out—it’s almost unsurvivable.” Markle gave birth to her first child, Archie, on May 6, 2019, then took three months of maternity leave. Later that year, she joined Prince Harry for a royal tour of Africa, where they made some of their first public appearances as a family.
During that time, the invasive tabloid coverage, intense scrutiny, and online bullying became so bad that it caused her severe emotional distress. And although her experience is unique, for obvious reasons, Markle explained how this type of bullying can have a negative impact on anyone. “Even though our experience is unique to us and obviously can seem very different to what people experience on the day to day, it’s still a human experience and that’s universal,” she said.
“We all know what it feels like to have our feelings hurt,” Markle continued. “We all know what it feels like to be isolated or othered. And I think that’s why the work you guys are doing here is so important...that people know there’s someone to talk to. You’re not alone in any of it. We’re all figuring it out.” And she's right: According to one study, 40 percent of Americans have personally experienced online harassment.
In January 2020, “after many months of reflection and internal discussions,” Prince Harry and Markle announced they were stepping down from their royal duties and moving to the U.S., citing what they said was the unbearable intrusions of the British media without help from the royal family. Markle is currently suing the Associated Newspapers Ltd. over five damaging articles that "exploited the Duchess's privacy" by leaking private documents.
Since moving to America and buying a house in Santa Barbara, CA, Prince Harry and Markle have kept a relatively low profile, appearing publicly only for the charitable organizations they work with and for initiatives that are important to them, including mental health.
“I don’t care if you’re 15 or you’re 25, if people are saying things about you that aren’t true, what that does to your mental and emotional health is so damaging,” she said on the podcast. By sharing her own personal experiences, she is certainly helping to normalize conversations about mental health.
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