Prince William has spoken candidly about his mother’s struggle with an eating disorder for the first time in a new documentary.
The BBC Channel 4 documentary Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia was created by former Independent Television News (ITN) newsreader Mark Austin, whose daughter, Maddy, was diagnosed with anorexia in 2012.
While Maddy has now made a full recovery, she and her father are attempting to break down the stigma around eating disorders. They visited Kensington Palace for an interview session with the Duke of Cambridge, who was eager to “normalise the conversation about mental health”.
William, along with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and his brother, Prince Harry, spearheads the Heads Together campaign, which “aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing” by partnering with other charities, raising awareness, and providing support for those suffering through mental health challenges.
“The fact that you are speaking out is incredibly brave,” Williams says in the documentary.
Way back in 1992, Princess Diana revealed that she had suffered from bulimia in the book Diana: Her True Story, penned by Andrew Morton. The devastating circumstances of her four-year separation and eventual divorce from Prince Charles seemed to further aggravate the eating disorder; in 1995, she talked about the reasons for her distress with Martin Bashir.
“I didn’t like myself; I was ashamed I couldn’t cope with the pressures,” Diana said in the BBC interview.
“I had bulimia for a number of years, and that’s like a secret disease. It’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive. It was my escape mechanism.”
Even more than 20 years later, Diana’s public acknowledgement of her disease is helping young people.
“I was inspired by what your mum did,” Maddy tells William.
When asked if he was proud of his mother for making those comments, William is adamant.
“Absolutely,” he says. “These are illnesses. Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health.”
Mark believes that he took his eye “off the ball” and didn’t recognise the difficulties that his daughter was struggling with.
“I tell you what, William,” Mark says in the documentary, “keep an eye on Charlotte and George.”
William may not have needed the warning; he knows all too well that life in the spotlight can be unbearably torturous at times, especially if you’re a member of the royal family.
Earlier this year, Prince Harry came clean about his personal struggle after the death of his mother.
“I can safely say that losing my mum age the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” Harry revealed in a podcast.
Harry is even more determined to help end the stigma around mental health after the “two years of chaos” during which he finally learnt to deal with his issues – something that was encouraged strongly by William.