Recognizing and Helping Depressed, Suicidal Employees

Meghan Markle’s revelation about suicidal thoughts sheds light on need for mental health support

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek March 9, 2021
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

​Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and the wife of Prince Harry of England, had suicidal thoughts while pregnant to the point that she feared being by herself, she revealed during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday.

Markle, who is biracial, spoke about the impact of the barrage of negative media coverage and social media bullying she experienced, a lack of support and understanding from the royal family, and discussions at the palace—prior to her son's birth—about his skin tone.

"In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, we had in tandem the conversation [that] he won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born," she told an incredulous Winfrey.

Those conversations were with the prince, concerns he relayed to his pregnant wife. The prince refused to identify who at the palace raised the skin-color issue, but he did say neither his grandmother Queen Elizabeth nor his grandfather Prince Phillip discussed that with him, Winfrey reported Monday on "CBS This Morning."

Markle told Winfrey she was so mentally distraught she contacted the palace's HR department but was told they couldn't help her because she wasn't a paid employee of the institution. She told Winfrey she was ashamed to admit to Harry what she was experiencing, "but I knew that if I didn't say it, I would do it. And I just didn't, I just didn't want to be alive anymore."

She recalled attending an official event at the Royal Albert Hall with her husband in January 2019, where she had to appear happy and smiling before the public but broke into tears when the lights went down and no one could see her.

"It's important for people to remember they have no idea what's going on in someone's life behind closed doors," Markle said. "Even the people that smile and shine the brightest lights."

[SHRM members-only tools and samples: How Should an Employer Respond When an Employee Makes Suicidal Statements?]

Prince Harry said his wife's worsening mental health reminded him of the struggles of his mother, Diana, two decades earlier, and he wanted to prevent history from repeating itself. He and his wife stepped back from official royal duties as senior members of the British royal family in part, he said, because toxic British media coverage was damaging their mental health.

SHRM Online collected the following news reports about how the interview with the Sussexes has shed light on the importance of asking for, and receiving, help with mental health concerns. 

'I Didn't Want to Be Alive Anymore': Duchess Meghan Opens Up in Oprah Interview, More Major Moments  

Weeks of media hype reached a crescendo when CBS aired Oprah Winfrey's interview in which the duchess said she was so close to suicide during her time in the palace that she couldn't be left alone.

"I didn't want to be alive anymore," she said, tearing up.

Markle couldn't get any help from "the institution" of the monarchy, and checking into a hospital was out of the question because of appearance' sake.
(USA Today)

Meghan Markle Reveals Thoughts of Suicide in Interview with Oprah, Shining Light on Mental Health Needs, Support 

Markle and Prince Harry's stunning interview with Oprah shined a bright light on mental health and how people can reach out and get the help and support they need.

Los Angeles-based psychotherapist John Tsilimparis said he was impressed with the couple's awareness that they needed help but weren't getting it, forcing them to step back from the British royal family. He has not met either one, but says their transparency could help other people experiencing symptoms of depression. These symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and guilt, a loss of interest in things that usually bring pleasure, changes to eating or sleeping habits, irritableness, and worry.
(CBS Los Angeles)  

SHRM Research: COVID-19 Takes a Toll on Employees' Mental Well-Being 

Are you feeling emotionally drained, having trouble concentrating or losing interest in activities you once enjoyed? If so, you're not alone.

"COVID-19 is taking a toll on our minds and emotions in a million little ways," said SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. "Now more than ever, employers should double down against stigmas and guarantee employees know of the resources, benefits and accommodations available." 
(SHRM Online)

Meghan Markle Spoke Candidly About Mental Health in Bombshell Interview. Experts Say Impact 'Could Be Huge' 

Mental health experts applaud Markle's candor.

"Although the pressure to be 'normal' and perfect is so great for someone like Meghan Markle, the impact of her showing that vulnerability to the world could be huge," said Jason Moser, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

The stigma surrounding mental illness "engenders feelings of shame and guilt and makes it even harder for someone to personally seek out treatment—which is what they need—in addition to exacerbating the mental illness they are already suffering with," said Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell School of Medicine and host of the How Can I Help? podcast from iHeartRadio.
(Yahoo News)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
(National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

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