February 22, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In this edition, we bring you Sarah Henry’s commentary on Spare, which traces Prince Harry’s prolonged grief after his mother’s death — and his painful journey toward healing. We also touch on U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s YouTube campaign against loneliness. And much more.

Prince Harry and His Decade of Magical Thinking

L-R: Prince William, Princess Diana, and Prince Harry, in The Mirror, 1997. (Shutterstock)

As author Sarah Henry writes, “Little wonder that Prince Harry is haunted. Twenty-six years on, an indelible image is seared in our psyches: Two young British boys walk behind their mother’s casket, heads bowed in anguish, as the world watches in sadness, shock and disbelief. Princess Diana – the people’s princess and the princes’ mum — was dead, killed in a horrific high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel while being pursued by paparazzi.

“Prince Harry was then only 12 years old. Prior to losing his beloved mother, he was considered the carefree child, with his mum’s keen sense of adventure and fun. Profound grief put an end to his impish, happy-go-lucky ways. He’d lost his emotional anchor, and his adolescence was marked by sorrow, anger and loneliness.

“He doesn’t label it, but experts say Prince Harry likely suffered with what’s known as prolonged grief disorder. People who experience such intense grief struggle to engage in everyday life and are preoccupied by their loss and a constant yearning. The Duke of Sussex reveals in his ghost-written book that for more than a decade he held on to “magical thinking” – a fervent belief that his mum wasn’t dead at all. Princess Diana was alive, he was certain of it; she had simply escaped her untenable life and hounding by the tabloid press, was in hiding and would summon her sons to join her when it was safe to do so. This kind of fantastical belief – a psychological coping or avoidance strategy – is not uncommon among the bereaved, say therapists, particularly among those dealing with trauma from the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one.”

Prince Harry’s book has sparked a new interest in traumatic loss and how to treat it. Read the full story here.

Combating loneliness on YouTube, courtesy of the U.S. Surgeon General

US Surgeon General Vivek H Murthy visiting the Montefiore addiction treatment center in New York in 2016. Photo: a katz, Shutterstock

Last December, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy partnered with Calm, a meditation software company, to deliver free digital mindfulness tools to Americans as part of his efforts to address the nation’s mental health. Although users would have to register for a free Calm account to access the resources on their app, the same content is also available on YouTube. It consists of meditation sessions to help people overcome loneliness, navigate stressful daily lives, adapt to sudden change, and combat negativity.

“Access to mental health support is vital to our overall well-being,” said Murthy in a press release. “During my travels across the country as Surgeon General, I’ve heard firsthand about the mental health struggles and loneliness that people are facing. While the pandemic brought the issues of stress, anxiety, and loneliness to the forefront, these struggles existed long before COVID-19. Easy-to-use mental health tools and practices can help families address stress and strengthen one of the most powerful sources of healing – our relationships with one another,” he said.

Yale psych professor who taught the university’s most popular course creates new class on well-being 

via Twitter

Since teaching the most popular Yale University course ever, “Psychology and the Good  Life,” psychology professor Laurie Santos has designed a free six-week course, the “Science of Well-Being for Teens” to help address the rising rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide in American adolescents. The nation’s youth are in a full-blown mental health crisis, with the CDC reporting 20 percent of teens have considered suicide, while 9 percent have actually tried it.

Santos hopes to decrease those numbers by teaching people, among other lessons, that our brains lie to us about what makes us happy. “For adults, this may mean pursuing money or success at work, and for teens this might mean focusing on the perfect grades and getting into the best colleges,” she told CNBC. “The problem isn’t that we’re not putting work into feeling better — it’s that we’re doing the wrong things, prioritizing the wrong behaviors.” 

To feel better, she says, we have to think about and do the things that make us feel better. Much of those behaviors are connected to the relationships we have with ourselves and others, including spending quality time with loved ones, being intentional about staying healthy, and good social-emotional health. As of this week, 45,228 people had enrolled in the course.

Seeking access to a good education for a son in special ed – and winning

via Twitter

As is unfortunately the case in too many places, which children get access to quality education often comes down to which of their families has access to money, power, and resources. An investigation by ProPublica and the Seattle Times found that it’s happening in Washington state — but they also learned of one mother who fought the system for her child and won. 

Megan Cummings’ journey began last fall, after her son, ElijahKing, a student in the Tacoma Public Schools special education program, was expelled from his middle school after leaving campus following an argument with a classmate. Both Cummings and her son were upset by the news, knowing that the private school where he was being sent lacked qualified teachers and employed a staff accused of physically abusing students. Apparently, the system hadn’t counted on Cummings, a mother, who already had to temporarily place her child into the care of the state for him to be able to access mental health care. 

She successfully secured a lawyer to advocate on ElijahKing’s behalf, and together they battled the district for weeks in court to get Nova’s son back in his middle school where he could learn. Thrilled to be back with his friends, he’s flourishing. “He’s so bright, I’m telling you,” she said. “He just needed the chance.”

In other news…

The City of San Antonio is applying for a state grant to support police officer mental health. “They see things day to day that I think might be unimaginable to most people,” Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda, told News 4 SA. “We very unfortunately had a number of police officers, both active and retired, committing suicide, and it seemed to be happening a lot more frequently in the last year, two years,” she said. Though mental health services are offered to police through the city, the state grant funds they’re seeking would enable officers to pay for counseling outside of the department. Further, based on the level of trauma they see at work, city officials are considering ways to increase counseling access to the fire department, too.

Last summer, music star Shawn Mendes canceled a tour to concentrate on his mental wellness. As he eases back into the spotlight, he told the Wall Street Journal, “I think the last year and a half has been the most eye-opening and growing and beautiful and just healing process of my life. I’m also really grateful for all the people that were so accepting and loving and kind and understanding.” In addition to spending more time with his family in Los Angeles, Mendes said that he now meditates and takes ice baths as part of his self-care.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...