A couple of years ago, Prince Harry joined the ever-growing list of high-profile public figures who are opening up about their mental health struggles. “I can safely say that losing my mum 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 my work as well,” Harry said on a podcast for The Daily Telegraph. Now Harry and Oprah Winfrey are teaming up on a series for Apple TV+ that will debut next year, and the whole focus will be on mental health, People reports.
The Duke of Sussex and Winfrey will work alongside each other as co-creators and executive producers, according to the People report, with the goal of highlighting the “human spirit fighting back from the darkest places.” Harry said that once he realized the impact that sharing his own struggles had on people, he wanted to give others a chance to tell their stories, too — to help anyone who may be suffering silently. “What I have learned and continue to learn in the space of mental health, mental illness, and self-awareness is that all roads lead back to our mental well-being how we look after ourselves and each other,” Harry said. “If the viewers can relate to the pain and perhaps the experience, then it could save lives, as we will focus on prevention and positive outcomes,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
And when it comes to really changing the conversation around mental health, relating is key. Research published in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal last year found that the media perpetuates stigmas of mental illness through “exaggerated, inaccurate, and comical images” and portrays individuals as “violent and unpredictable, as victims, or as incapable of holding down a job.” As most people know, that image couldn’t be further from the reality: Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. And plenty of people who are holding down jobs (and even excelling at them) are suffering in silence.
So the impact of more honest representation in the media could be profound. Portraying mental health in ways that are constructive, honest, and affirming can help those who are living with mental health issues feel that their experiences are valid — and become aware of solutions, Sarah Stanlick, Ph.D., a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and researcher in the digital humanities, tells Thrive. As Stanlick points out, “There have been many perceptions of mental health over our human history — from people who talk about it as a ‘life sentence’ to more flexible understanding of the many dimensions and contexts of mental health challenges,” Stanlick says. “Nuance can be difficult to understand, and honest representations and discussions of mental health in media can help our society to transform to a place where we understand those nuances.”
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