“Yes,” said Meghan, “that was very, very clear.”
We later learned how clear it was. She remembered what she had told her husband, “It was like these are the thoughts I have in the middle of the night that are very clear and I am scared because these are very real. This is not an abstract idea. That’s methodical and that’s not who I am. “
Meghan said she asked a senior royal family member about the possibility of being hospitalized for her mental health problem, but that person refused to protect the family’s image. She said she was too scared to be left alone and feared that she might end her life. So she confided in Prince Harry, who supported her emotionally but did not share the extent of her problems with his family.
“I think I was ashamed to admit it to you and I don’t know if you had the same feelings or thoughts,” he said to Mrs. Winfrey. “I have no idea. It’s a very addicting environment that many of them are in.”
This is why Meghan’s reveal is a gift to so many strangers. You don’t have to be a king to be trapped in silence. According to a 2015 study, nearly 10 million American adults had seriously considered suicide in the past year. A 2019 survey found that almost one in five students had such thoughts. Despite the relatively high prevalence of thoughts of suicide, less than half of the people who experience them tell a friend or family member. Of those who died of suicide between 2000 and 2017, only about one in three had seen a therapist or psychiatrist in the past year.
Some people might be concerned that Meghan’s revelations might lead other vulnerable individuals to view suicide as a “solution” to use their word. Research shows that knowing someone who died by suicide or who attempted suicide is linked to an increased risk of suicide. When a celebrity dies by suicide, the suicide rate increases slightly in the month after their death.
Yes, contagion can occur after suicide, but hope is also contagious.
Hearing stories from people who resisted suicidal thoughts without acting on them has been linked to declines in suicide rates. Perhaps stories of recovery can inspire hope and healing.
The tragedy of the silence about suicide is not just that people suffer alone. It is also so that they rarely hear the stories of people who committed suicide and survived. Research shows that almost half of people say they know someone who died of suicide. While this has not been researched, far more people are likely to know someone who has recovered from thoughts of suicide, as around 240 times more people consider suicide than dying from it in any given year.