Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s highly anticipated interview with Oprah covered an array of topics including the couple’s departure as working members of the British monarchy, Meghan’s estranged relationship with her father, and racism in the palace and press.
However, it was the discussion of mental health that struck me the most when I watched the two-hour tell-all from my couch with a bowl of strawberries and chocolate at the ready.
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” Meghan told Oprah, saying she had contemplated suicide during her time as working royal as she “just didn’t see a solution.”
“Look, I was really ashamed to have to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry especially, but I knew that if I didn’t say that I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
What she said next quite literally pricked at my spine as my eyes anxiously scouted the lounge room for the tissue box.
“It takes so much courage to admit you need help,” she said. “To admit that you need help, to admit how dark of a place you’re in.”
That is it. That is it right there. Mustering up the willingness or courage to ask for help in these dire situations is often as excruciatingly painful as the depression that has already consumed our lives.
I know this because I’ve seen how taxing and traumatic it’s been for some around me to say, ‘Hey, I actually need help and can you help me get some?” I’ve also had to acknowledge my own need for help over the past few years, and once I started getting it quickly realised that paying for therapy has been a more worthwhile use of my money than a splurge on a new dress and shoes.
But how do we get here? How do more of us as South Asian women get to the point where we feel comfortable to ask for help? Our culture is known to sweep mental health issues under the rug or label them as taboo. I’ve even heard the line from elders in our community that depression “didn’t exist back in our day” and that “you youngsters are soft”.
While Meghan Markle is not South Asian, she represents women of colour facing a system that shuns vulnerability and deems depression and anxiety as nothing more than a curse or an illusion. In order for more of us to find the courage to ask for help, cultural perspectives of mental health issues need to critically change.
Meghan Markle’s statements form the unwanted but crucial words the older generations need to hear. Aunties and uncles, it’s time to let your children know that mental ill-health is real, and that asking for help is no betrayal of the family’s name.
If you or someone you know needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14