“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.” Those were the words spoken by Meghan Markle, as she told Oprah she’d contemplated suicide. “It was very clear and very scary,” the duchess said, in the interview that’s been watched by millions around the world. “I just didn’t see a solution.”
Her words have been praised by mental health charities and the public, with people thanking the duchess for talking about the complexities of suicidal thoughts.
Meghan shared how she felt “really ashamed” to tell Prince Harry at first, because of “how much loss he’s suffered”. But eventually, she realised she had no choice. “I knew that if I didn’t say [how I was feeling] that I would do it,” she said. “And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
The duchess spoke about attending a public event alongside Harry shortly after the difficult conversation, because she was scared to be left home alone.
Hannah Digby, 21, from Leicester, says she’s “in awe” of Meghan following the interview. Digby has previously attempted suicide and says Meghan’s comments about not wanting to be left alone really resonated with her.
“It is scary to be in that situation but it’s even scarier to admit that too,” she says. “For anybody who has struggled with mental health problems, it is hard to take that first step to admit to someone else how you are feeling.”
The fact Meghan disclosed these thoughts after receiving so much criticism makes the interview even more powerful, adds Digby “I believe people will reach out to be heard,” she says. “Sometimes when you hear someone else speak of their struggles, it can help process what you have been feeling too.”
In the interview, Meghan pointed out that you never know who is struggling with their mental health. “It’s so important for people to remember [that] you have no idea what’s going on for someone behind closed doors. You have no idea. Even the people that smile the biggest smiles and shine the brightest lights...” she said. “It takes so much courage to voice that. And as I said, I was ashamed.”
Others on social media have praised the duchess, saying parts of the interview resonated with them and thanking her for normalising discussion on suicide.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director of the Mental Health Foundation, has echoed the praise, saying a high profile interview like this could help save lives.
“Experiencing suicidal thoughts is sadly common in our societies and, devastatingly, suicide is one of the leading causes of death,” he tells HuffPost UK. “It is so important to talk about such feelings of distress and not to bottle things up.
“Having a much-loved high profile public figure opening up about getting help for her suicidal thoughts can definitely raise awareness and help people not feel alone and isolated.”
Dr Kousoulis says mental illness and suicide touch many lives and happen for a complex range of reasons. “Meghan Markle’s story clearly shows how behind the statistics, there are people with their own lives and their own set of circumstances,” he says. “If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, opening up about how you are feeling can be the first step to getting help.”
Following the interview, Samaritans urged anyone impacted by suicidal thoughts to seek help. “We know many people struggle and feel overwhelmed with life’s challenges, and sometimes they may feel like they have nobody to turn to, but there is support out there and talking can be life-saving,” a spokesperson said.
“It’s really important that anyone who is struggling reaches out for help, whether it’s with a colleague, a family member, a friend or a confidential helpline like Samaritans. Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to face it alone.”
For support with suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues, use the websites and helplines below:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill). You also can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit samaritans.org to find out more.