Harry reveals he turned to drink and drugs in the years after Diana's death
The Duke of Sussex has admitted he turned to drink and drugs as he dealt with the trauma of his mother’s death later in life.
In the first instalments of his mental health documentary series with Oprah Winfrey, Harry said he used alcohol to “mask” his emotions, spoke about Meghan’s struggles with suicidal thoughts and how therapy has given him hope.
The duke once again lambasted the parenting skills of the Prince of Wales, criticising his father for expecting his sons to endure the pressures of royal life, just as Charles has done, instead of protecting them.
Harry criticised his family, accusing them of “total neglect” when his wife Meghan was feeling suicidal amid harassment on social media.
And he laid bare his battles with panic attacks and severe anxiety, saying “so 28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life”.
His comments, which were aired on Friday, are likely to increase the much publicised tensions within the royal family following Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Winfrey.
In that programme the Sussexes first accused the royal family of not supporting them, claimed royal aides declined to help Meghan when she was troubled with suicidal thoughts and said a relative had made a racist comment about their son’s skin colour.
During the first three episodes of Apple TV’s The Me You Can’t See, Harry told Winfrey about his substance abuse.
Hours before it aired, Harry joined his brother the Duke of Cambridge in criticising the BBC following an inquiry which found the broadcaster covered up “deceitful behaviour” used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure his headline-making 1995 interview with their mother.
Harry told Winfrey: “I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling.”
The duke would drink a week’s worth of alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night “not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something”.
As a 17-year-old he was involved in under-age drinking and taking cannabis, with his father sending him to visit a rehabilitation clinic in south-east London, to highlight the long-term dangers of drug use.
The duke also told Winfrey his family did not speak about Diana’s death and expected him to just deal with the resulting press attention and mental distress.
When asked how he was Harry would tell people he was fine: “But I was just all over the place mentally, every time I put a suit on and tie on and having to do the role, and go, ‘right, game face’, look in the mirror and say, ‘let’s go’.
“Before I’d even left the house I was pouring with sweat… I was in fight or flight mode.
“Panic attacks, severe anxiety, and so 28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life.”
He said that after marrying Meghan his attempts to get help from his family, following online trolling which was pushing her to the brink, were ignored.
He said: “Every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, to stop just got met with total silence or total neglect.”
Harry added: “We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job.”
The series comes after Harry appeared to suggest his father and grandparents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, had all failed as parents during a podcast interview broadcast earlier in May.
He picked up the theme with Winfrey, telling her: “My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well it was like that for me so it’s going to be like that for you’.”
He added: “That doesn’t make sense. Just because you suffered doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer, in fact quite the opposite – if you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences you had, that you can make it right for your kids.”
The now 36-year-old said his family told him to “play the game” and life would improve.
But he objected, telling Winfrey: “I’ve got a hell of a lot of my mum in me.
“The only way to free yourself and break out is to tell the truth.”
Harry told Winfrey he would “never be bullied into silence” in the future.
He said he did not go to his family when Meghan felt suicidal because he was ashamed the situation had got “that bad” and also suspected the royals would not have been able to help.
The duke said: “That was one of the biggest reasons to leave, feeling trapped and feeling controlled through fear, both by the media and by the system itself which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma.
“Certainly now I will never be bullied into silence.”
Harry is shown taking part in an eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy session with a trained professional.
He said: “Therapy has equipped me to be able to take on anything – that’s why I’m here now, that’s why my wife is here now.”