Princess Diana was known for her composure and generosity publicly, but we may not have known the extent of her struggle to treat mental health issues privately. Now, newly published interviews are shining more of a light on her experience.
National Geographic’s “Diana: In Her Own Words” documentary, which premiered last week, featured interviews Diana had in 1991 with close friend James Colthurst. The interviews were conducted for journalist Andrew Morton’s 1992 book about her life, Diana: Her True Story.
Diana told Colthurst that she developed an eating disorder just before she married Prince Charles, who had made comments about her body, and who ― she believed ― may have been having an affair. At her lowest point, she said in the recording, she contemplated self harm and dealt with suicidal thoughts.
“I came [back to London] to seek treatment. I was in such a bad way,” she said in the recording. “Couldn’t sleep, didn’t eat, the whole world was collapsing around me. All the analysts and psychiatrists you can ever dream of came plodding in.”
The princess went on to explain that many of the experts wanted her to try medication to treat her mental health issues, including valium.
“They were telling me, ‘pills,’” She told Colthurst. “But the Diana that was still very much there decided that it was just time, patience and adapting that was all that was needed.”
Diana’s frankness about mental health may have been part of her legacy: Both sons Prince William and Prince Harry, along with the Duchess of Cambridge, launched a mental health initiative called Heads Together, which is aimed at tackling the stigma around mental illness.
Harry has also spoken out about how the death of his mother affected his psychological wellbeing. In an interview earlier this year with The Daily Telegraph, Harry confessed that he tried not to think about her for years. He eventually spoke with a therapist when he got older and discovered he was living with unresolved grief.
“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?” he told the newspaper.
“And then [I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with,” he continued.
Diana was known as being the “People’s Princess,” and her willingness to discussion her experience with mental illness ― something that affects nearly one in four people globally ― certainly corroborates that image.