Recently I was awakened by a notification from my phone. Prince Harry admitted to seeking treatment for his mental health to better cope with the death of his mother, Princess Diana. That week, Facebook was filled with reports of Prince Harry “admitting” and “revealing” this fact. I was happy to hear the news, especially in regard to a male public figure. But I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading a scandalous tabloid report, with headlines like that of the Daily Mail: “Prince Harry admits he was close to a breakdown over the death of Diana as he reveals he saw a therapist.”
Harry pointed out how difficult it is for young men to feel comfortable seeking treatment for mental illness, telling The Telegraph, “You suddenly realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club, and everybody’s gagging to talk about it.”
We have made great strides toward recognizing and providing treatment. Yet the stigma of mental illness remains, especially among men. Seeking counseling still requires that a person “admit” that they have a problem. The media isn’t known for reporting on mental illness responsibly, from caricatured versions of Britney Spears to Lindsay Lohan. Young men need role models, examples within the media that show there is no shame in getting treated for psychological issues. However, potential role models are unlikely to make their treatment public if they feel that they will be reported on as a scandal.
Over 40 million people are suffering with a mental illness in the U.S., and 53 percent did not receive treatment – and these numbers are from those who actually reported it. Many do not. According to the American Psychiatric Association, men are less likely to seek treatment, but they have equal or sometimes higher rates of mental illnesses, with suicide being the second-highest cause of death for men younger than 34.
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It is so important that members of the military and other “hyper-masculine” environments have role models willing to talk openly about seeking help. Prince Harry, an army captain, speaking about his experience is a start. However, in our everyday lives mental health issues are still not discussed.
Saying that you came from counseling should be as simple as saying you came back from a trip to the store. “My brother and other people [said], ‘You really need to deal with this,’ ” Harry said, and talking with members of the military was what pushed him to finally seek the counseling he needed. This is what the headlines should have focused on. As someone with five brothers, the thought that they might suffer in silence because of the way society might view them is heartbreaking. I hope the media can take stories like that of Prince Harry and focus on the positive aspects.
We as a community should be as mindful and supportive as Harry’s brother, and one of the ways we can encourage this within our communities is by the media helping to normalize the treatment of a very common issue.
Hana Joy is an Idaho resident currently studying at Columbia University in New York City.