The 32-year-old royal broke with his family's "stiff upper lip" tradition and opened up in a Sunday podcast about his struggles with mental health that stemmed, in part, from Princess Diana's sudden death in 1997.
He's been "very close to a complete breakdown" on numerous occasions, he said — a revelation that would be hard for most people but is a radical step for the historically reticent royal family.
“Losing my mom at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well,” he told the Telegraph. It was only three years ago, with support from his brother,
"My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mom, because why would that help? It's only going to make you sad. It's not going to bring her back," he said. "On the emotional side I was like, right, don't ever let your emotions be part of anything. I was a typical 20-, 25- 28-year-old running 'round going, life is great, or life is fine."
He was in denial for 20 years, he said. During that period, his antics — dare we say acting out? — were well documented.
When he was underage, he drank and smoked weed. He got in fights. He dressed up as a Nazi. While partying hard, he fell into a pool. Just before his 28th birthday, he was photographed partying in the nude in Las Vegas, and while it got a lot of public support, it wasn't exactly Kensington Palace-approved. (He also served in Afghanistan while in the army and did charitable work around the globe.)
Over the years, he said, friends and family encouraged him to look into getting mental-health help, but, he said, the timing wasn't right — until three years ago. "It was 20 years of not thinking about it and then two years of total chaos. I couldn't put my finger on it. I didn't know what was wrong with me."
He enlisted the help of psychologists, but made it clear that his issues did not stem from his time in Afghanistan. "Luckily, thank God." Grief that he'd never processed started to come to the forefront, he said, and he also dealt with a fight-or-flight reaction he had in certain public situations.
"The experience that I've had is once you start talking about [mental health], you suddenly realized, actually, you're part of a big club ... and everybody's gagging to talk about it," Harry said.
He and his brother and sister-in-law, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, are working together on the Heads Together charitable campaign to help people who need mental health care.
The younger prince, who primarily shared his experiences as a member of society at large, also got specific about holding it together as a member of Britain's royal family.
"I generally don't know how we stay sane," he said. "I don't have any secrets."
"I've probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and lies and misconceptions [are circulating], and everything's coming at you from every angle, but it comes with the job," he added. "It comes with the role, and one of the hardest things, I suppose, is not being able to have that voice and stand up for yourself, and to let it wash over you."
But, he said, he has to.
The "Mad World" podcast by Bryony Gordon, who interviewed Harry, will continue for a total of 10 episodes.