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Royals

Prince William gets candid about loss and why men need to know it's okay to cry

The future king lays bare the toll of his own bereavements.

By Judy Kean
He comes from a family that's the epitome of the "British stiff upper lip". But Prince William is continuing his crusade to get people to express their emotions for the sake of their mental health by talking about his personal struggles.
The future king has opened up about the trauma of losing his mum, Diana, Princess of Wales, and how it has continued to affect him since she was killed in a car crash in 1997.
He's also revealed how the years he spent working as an air ambulance pilot took a toll on him.
William says the loss of his mum Diana (here in 1991) was a pain like no other. Getty Images
Speaking out about mental health in a TV documentary, Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health, William says Diana's death when he was just 15 caused him huge pain, but also allowed him to identify with others who are grieving.
"I've thought about this a lot, and I'm trying to understand why I feel like I do, but I think when you are bereaved at a very young age, any time really, but particularly at a young age... you feel a pain like no other pain.
"You know that in your life it's going to be very difficult to come across something that's going to be even worse pain than that. But it also brings you so close to all those other people out there who have been bereaved. So instantly, when you talk to someone else… you can almost see it in their eyes sometimes."
The documentary, which was aimed at men in particular, includes footage of William (36) discussing mental health issues such as depression with top British soccer players and England football manager Gareth Southgate (48).
Dad-of-three William says while the "British stiff upper lip thing" has its place, people need to "relax a little bit and be able to talk about our emotions because we are not robots".
He also mentions the emotional impact of his work attending emergency call-outs as a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance service, which was "very raw" compared to his previous job in the military, where feelings tended to be put to one side.
"You're dealing with families who are having the worst news they could ever possibly have on a day-to-day basis," he explains.
"It leaves you with a very depressing, very negative feeling, where you think, 'Death is just around the door everywhere I go'. That's quite a burden to carry and feel."
William has previously said that the sadness that came with dealing with tragic cases was hard to shake, and he worried that his work would affect his home life with wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their children, Prince George (5) and Princess Charlotte (4). Prince Louis (1) was born after he left the job.
"I took a lot of it home without realising it," admits William. "You see so many sad things that you think life is like that. You're always dealing with despair and sadness and injury."
There was one particular call-out the prince attended that he doubts he will ever be able to get over. He says it is still very difficult to talk about because it "related very closely" to his children. In the end, he felt he had to talk about what he was going through.
"That raw emotion… I could feel it brewing up inside me, and I could feel it was going to take its toll and be a problem. I had to speak about it."
The BBC's Dan Walker (far right) presented Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health alongside William.
The football players he speaks with in the documentary agree it's vital for men to get over the feeling that they can't cry.Gareth says there is a culture of "not opening up about anything in your life without being seen as weak".
He adds, "But that's the key, it isn't a weakness, it is actually a strength."
William's determination to get people talking about mental health led him to set up the Heads Together campaign, along with Kate (37) and brother Prince Harry (34) three years ago.
Later joined by Harry's wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, they have funded initiatives such as a text messaging service called Shout that puts people going through tough times in touch with trained counsellors.
William, Kate and Harry are all passionate about removing the stigma around mental health.
They've won praise for taking action, but William reveals that when they first set up Heads Together, every celebrity he asked for support said no.
He says "a lot" of stars were approached, but none wanted to be associated with an organisation promoting mental health awareness.
He thinks that's due to stigma surrounding conditions such as depression and anxiety and that's partly due to attitudes handed down from people who lived through World War II.
They chose to be stoic and not talk about the horrendous things they'd experienced, and that outlook was passed on to their children, he says. But later generations are starting to realise how important it is to be open, and no longer suffer in silence.
"We are chipping away at [the stigma], but that wall still needs to be smashed down."

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