What the world needs now (other than a hard reset) is a healthy dose of empathy, and Saturday’s World Mental Health Day was an opportune moment to focus on exactly that; namely, how can we relate to each other’s emotional challenges and traumas, and let each other know we’re not alone?
These are necessary questions as we continue to normalize conversations around mental health—and therefore, somewhat unfortunate that some perceived comments made by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex this weekend as less than relatable.
“I’m told that in 2019 I was the most trolled person in the entire world-male or female,” said Meghan in an interview with Teenage Therapy Podcast on Saturday, as she husband Prince Harry helped to raise awareness about World Mental Health Day, which is annually celebrated on October 10 (h/t CNN). “Now, eight months of that I wasn’t even visible. I was on maternity leave or with a baby but what was able to just be manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable,” she continued. “That’s so big you can’t even think about what that feels like because I don’t care if you’re 15 or 25, if people are saying things about you that aren’t true, what that does to your mental and emotional health is so damaging.”
“Pity the poor duchess!” wrote Page Six in a somewhat snarky opener to its coverage of the appearance and comments, which were obviously intended to correlate Meghan’s often abusive treatment online—some of which compelled stricter guidelines from Buckingham Palace before she and Harry relinquished their roles as senior royals—with the epidemic of teenage cyberbullying that has grown in tandem with social media.
However, what’s unavoidable is the fact that, though the duchess has been legitimately and repeatedly publicly maligned (including in our comments sections whenever we report on her), she is also still extremely and indisputably privileged in myriad ways. While we don’t know exactly who told her she was the “most trolled”—and she certainly experiences it on a level we can’t begin to fathom—the reception to her confession wasn’t universally sympathetic, as the toll on her mental health may have felt a bit out-of-touch in comparison to the extremely fragile and still-developing psyches of teenagers. In fact, she came frighteningly close to sounding like Melania Trump, who claimed in 2018 that she was “the most bullied person in the world.”
Perhaps intuiting this, Meghan added: “Even though our experience is unique to us and obviously can seem very different to what people experience on the day-to-day, it’s still a human experience and that’s universal...We all know what it feels like to have our feelings hurt. We all know what it feels like to be isolated or bothered,” she continued, noting that journaling is the “very powerful” coping mechanism she employs. “It allows me to reflect on where I’ve come from,” said the former blogger.
“I think that’s why the work you guys are doing here is so important...and that people know there’s someone to talk to. You’re not alone in any of it. We’re all figuring it out,” she told her teenage hosts,.“The more you internalize it the more challenges all of us face. Suddenly when you have some perspective, when you have people to check you, it’s really valuable.”
Tellingly, the hosts did ask how Markle was feeling, harkening back to one of the last public confessions she made about her mental health during a 2019 interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby.
“[T]hank you for asking, because not many people will have asked if I’m OK,” Markle told Bradby at the time, after commenting on how difficult it had been processing the widespread scrutiny while juggling new motherhood, a marriage, and, of course, royalty. “But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes,” she added.
“I didn’t realize that my answer would receive such an interest from around the world,” she now says in reflection. “I didn’t think about that answer… I just answered because I was just in a moment of vulnerability.”
World Mental Health Day wasn’t the only time the Sussexes got candid over the weekend; on Sunday, they joined acclaimed young activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai to celebrate International Day of the Girl, and again with the Evening Standard in celebration of Black History Month in the U.K. There, they got candid about life with toddler son Archie, and the unexpected gift lockdown has given them as parents (h/t People).
“We were both there for his first steps. His first run, his first fall, his first everything,” Meghan told Malala. “In so many ways we are fortunate to be able to have this time to watch him grow, and in the absence of COVID, we would be traveling and working more...We’d miss a lot of those moments.”
“We are very lucky with our little one. He is just so busy, he is all over the place. He keeps us on our toes,” she further shared with the Standard, openly acknowledging that despite the challenges posed by her naysayers, life is nevertheless sweet. “We are just so lucky,” she added.