In a highly anticipated new interview, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, spoke to Oprah Winfrey about her family stepping away from their royal duties—and said that protecting her mental health was a huge factor in that choice.
One of the biggest revelations that came out of the interview was that Markle had experienced depression and even suicidal thoughts during her first pregnancy. She also said that the pressure, intense (often racist) scrutiny, and “character assassination” directed at her since marrying Prince Harry contributed to those feelings.
“I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered,” Markle told Oprah. “But I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. And I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
When asked to clarify, Markle explained that it was “very, very clear” she was having thoughts of harming herself and felt that it would “solve everything for everyone” if she ended her life. Markle later said that she had told senior officials she needed help, but was told she couldn’t get it because it “wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
She recalled one moment in particular when she and Harry were going to an event at Royal Albert Hall. “I remember him saying, ‘I don’t think you can go,’ and I said, ‘I can’t be left alone,'” Markle said.
Oprah told Markle that hearing this was shocking, but Markle replied that she was just explaining what happened. “I share this because there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help. And I know how hard it is to not just voice it but to voice it and be told no.”
It can be unsettling to have suicidal thoughts for the first time, and the stigma that surrounds those types of feelings may make it difficult to reach out for help. But, as SELF explained previously, it’s a good thing for public figures like Markle to be talking about those feelings openly as well as sharing how she advocated for herself and, eventually, got the help she needed. Markle’s experience is also a reminder of how often Black women are taught to dismiss their emotional struggles or assigned the role of caretaker for others rather than being given the mental health resources they need.
Experts told SELF previously that a public message like Markle’s makes it easier for others to speak about their own suicidal thoughts and reminds them that these feelings are survivable—even if, at first, they’re not met with the kind of response they deserved.
If you’re thinking about hurting yourself or just need someone to talk to right now, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, the Crisis Text Line. And here is a list of international suicide helplines if you’re outside the United States.