Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have seemed to be everywhere in media following high-profile appearances including an exclusive Oprah special and their recent six-episode limited documentary series released by Netflix. Then there was the release of the prince’s memoir Spare in January, which delved into the stream-of-consciousness minutiae that made “you feel as if you’ve intruded on something you weren’t quite meant to see,” as Rolling Stone noted at the time.
On Saturday, the prince made another public splash when he participated in a pay-per-view livestream with Dr. Gabor Maté, who wrote The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture. The appearance drew criticism for it being “free therapy” for Harry, but it cost viewers £20, or $33, as the Daily Star noted.
Prince Harry certainly is not the first and will not be the last celebrity who will be accused of TMI — and finding a balance in that regard has become increasingly more difficult in a society obsessed with both voraciously consuming celebrity content, while also scrutinizing whenever any have crossed a bridge too far. But despite the seeming overexposure, there is value in having celebrities talk about mental health, therapist Hillary Buckholtz tells Rolling Stone.
“As a mental health professional, I’m a pragmatist and anything that exposes people — even if it’s through a celebrity [or] someone we don’t need to spend our time thinking about, and someone we have really nothing in common with,” she says. “If that person is talking about something … that can actually impact people’s quality of life who are suffering with trauma, I think that that is a good thing.”
Buckholtz is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked with celebrities for the past seven years, including delving into PTSD and all forms of trauma in between. She is licensed in EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a psychotherapy that is meant to help patients process traumatic events and heal from trauma via eye movements.
Most would not dispute that Harry has experienced trauma: His mother, Princess Diana, died in a tragic car accident after being chased by paparazzi in 1997, when Harry was just 12 years old.
“[If] you’re the child of a famous person, and you’re thrust into the public eye, I think that alone is traumatic,” Buckholtz adds. “My thinking is, how can a child meaningfully consent to that level of scrutiny?”
While the prince’s trauma seems irrefutable, Maté diagnosed Harry with a number of disorders on the spot during their session on Saturday, including ADD, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
“I would be hesitant to do that in a first session,” Buckholtz says. “Typically, you’re not diagnosing in a first, second and third session, you’re doing assessments and clinical interviews, and you’re ruling out other possible diagnosis. It’s a process that people are usually pretty thoughtful and careful and thorough about.”
Of course, Harry isn’t the only one who has been coping with mental health issues in recent years. And most of us don’t have the resources of a (former) royal.
“The past three years, there’s been a massive, traumatizing event worldwide. And on an individual level, when you experience a traumatic event, you can experience all kinds of things, including lack of concentration, things that are similar to compassion fatigue, with the lack of concentration, lack of joy, lack of interest, and things that used to interest you,” Buckholtz says. “Things that can feel like depression, things that can feel like anxiety. And maybe one of those things is you don’t have as much patience, there’s irritability, for things that you used to be able to tolerate.
“I personally wonder if there isn’t some sort of mass impact of the pandemic affecting people in that way, where it’s harder for people to regulate themselves,” she continues. “In public, it’s harder for people to regulate their emotions, and it’s harder for people to put themselves in other people’s shoes, because everybody has been through so much.”
Mental Health America’s 2023 study found that roughly 50 million people are experiencing at least one mental illness, and 55 percent of adults with a mental health illness have not received any treatment. So, Harry haters can hate, but his message — joining the chorus of other celebrities who advocate for mental well-being — is valid.
“I think you can’t underestimate the power of people with a platform,” Buckholtz asserts. “If that person talking about mental health using their platform — no matter how annoying you may think they are, how overexposed they are — exposes one person to a life-altering healing modality or life altering healing experience, then to me that’s worth it.”