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Prince Harry’s frank conversation with local youths on mental health is something we can learn from

'You have to talk about your mental health in order to be mentally fit and therefore be happy, healthy for the rest of your life.'

Guan Zhen Tan | June 8, 2017 @ 12:14 pm

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In case you’re not aware, Britain’s Prince Harry was in town for the first time recently for charity work.

During his time here, the royal heart-throb played in the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup, an annual fundraising event that was held in Singapore this year.

He also broke fast with our local Muslim community at Jamiyah Singapore – and made genuine effort to get to know the people he met. He set people at ease with his warm personality, according to Channel NewsAsia.

He carried on this warm and humble attitude when it came to speaking to Singaporean youth mentors from the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) about mental health on June 6.

Wise and grounded words on the the issue of mental health were shared by him in the session. He raised the need for people to move away from stigmatising mental health, and treating it as a non-taboo topic for open discussion in our daily lives, which he acknowledges has gotten incredibly stressful.

Here’s a transcript of the session:

Prince Harry (PH): Do you have any experiences of mental health?

Youth Mentors (YM): Yeah, definitely, I think we all have.

[murmured chuckles]

PH: Yeah I know, everybody does, That’s the thing, everybody has mental health.

YM Izzah: I guess the thing here is our issue might be a mental health condition, and someone else’s issue might be something else but again we are all work in progress and we all have issues we need to work out.

PH: Hopefully you could encourage all your friends to, you know, if they have a bad day at work or a rubbish week at school, [laughter]

The stress of social media and “perfect life” expectations

PH: It exists, it happens all the time and even more so today than twenty years ago.

I don’t know whether the older generation would agree with us but I think with social media, the internet and everything else, you know, what do you call it, a lot of false realities are sort of thrown down young people”s throats and expecting or thinking that everybody’s life is perfect, and therefore [he gestures being overwhelmed by the expecations] and these things, we need to fix it, But it’s not our job to fix it, that’s for other people, all we can do is try and create the platform and the foundations where people can come forward and openly talk about mental health.

I can’t overemphasise it enough, it’s so important for guys like you, to be you know, banging the drum, and encouraging others. but it is! I mean, it’s crucial because if you can just help one person not have to go through and suffer in silence, then you’ve saved a life.

Yeah and also, mental health, for some reason (make) people go “eurgh”

[laughter]

They do, I don’t know whether it’s the word “mental” or it’s mental health. Whatever it is, some people go “urgh”, no mental health “urgh.” [laughter] “I don’t want to talk about that.”

Whereas physical fitness, mental fitness, come on, it just makes sense.

Coping mechanisms, just like everybody else

YM Nadera: That’s the stigma I guess, I mean they probably see us – the moment they think we have a mental condition- they see us as different, but the whole idea is that we are just like anyone else.

For Jodee, she dances, and then like Izzah, she plays the guitar, we have hobbies just like everyone else, we have lives just like everyone else.

PH: Hobbies or coping mechanisms?

All, agreeing: yeah.

PH: Everybody has them, you know.

I don’t think anyone would ever say they were completely fixed but you take up something or you give up something else or you distract yourself. Whatever it is, just to keep yourself ticking over and those are coping mechanisms, which some people have to, you know, probably like yourselves have to use for the rest of your lives.

YM Nadera: Do you want to share your dance?

YM Jodee: Oh, I was at a very difficult point of my life and then I had dance, like I didn’t have a very comfortable school life with friends, with my family, I didn’t really get any support so when I came in contact with dance, street dance, I found that to be very liberating for me as a way to express all this unfairness and maybe some violence that was pushed onto me so when I had dance I realised, like what you said, that was my coping mechanism.

It was something that motivated me week after week at school and at home to keep going and strive and that helped me reach my potential. Like hey, maybe I can be better than whatever is putting me down. Maybe I can use this to also empower other people because when we dance, we are unhappy. We’re happy to move, and to do things and to use that, to inspire others around us. That is very great to share that joy.

It doesn’t have to be a sad story

PH: The most important thing or the thing we are driving back home is that it doesn’t have to be a sad story. And that actually a lot of people that we’ve managed to bring forward have managed to put a really humorous spin on it and say yeah, I’ve suffered, this is what I used to do, or this is what I used to be like. And that must be encouraged because I think that’s another thing where you’re having a conversation with someone and you turn around and say yeah, I’ve got mental health issues and they say “urgh” and they walk off.

Because you’ve created an awkward situation of which they don’t know how to react and then you have to remind them to say I made that choice to bring up that conversation and to tell you-you didn’t prize it out of me. Let’s talk about it. Rather than people just going “hmmm..”

YM Ming Xiu: “Let’s say there’s one message you want to bring across to the youths in Singapore of even in the UK about youth mental health. what would you say to them?

PH: It’s, it’s you have to talk about your mental health in order to be mentally fit and therefore be happy, healthy for the rest of your life. you have to talk about your mental fitness.

 

Onward with the great work your Highness!

Top image via UK in Singapore’s Facebook page

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About Guan Zhen Tan

Guan Zhen always thought she'd grow up to be happy. Now, she finds solace in things like doodling, Visual Kei bands, strange memes and silly references.

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