The dismissal of Megan Markle’s experiences is unacceptable

09 October 2023

The response to Meghan Markle’s disclosure that she has experienced suicidal thoughts has shone a spotlight on how we approach conversations about mental health and racial injustice, and how we respond to people’s lived experience in Britain.

What it has revealed is hugely concerning. For years attitudes to mental health have been improving. But progress is not universal and while barriers have been broken down many still sadly remain. Notably in relation to racial injustice and mental health.

Our advice on how to respond to someone who discloses that they have experienced suicidal thoughts is to actively listen and respond with compassion.  You do not need to have an answer to their problems but you can let them know that these feelings will pass, that you care and that support is available.

Press and social media reaction to Megan Markle’s disclosure is not representative of everyone’s views. However, it does determine the environment and culture in which we live. Many (if not the large majority) of people who expressed a view did so compassionately, but we cannot ignore the words and actions of those who did not.

As a society, the message that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ often resonates, but this is meaningless if people’s experiences can be so easily dismissed or torn apart. We have a collective responsibility to ensure people are met with understanding and compassion when they voice their experiences, rather than adding to the stigma which so often prevents people from seeking support.

The question we need to ask ourselves is that as a result of the public debate in the last 24 hours, are people who experience mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts more or less likely to disclose them?

On which there is another important dimension, racism. We know that people from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds are both more likely to experience mental illness and less likely to receive the support and care that they need.

Since the murder of George Floyd last year, as an organisation we have learnt that it is not enough to not be racist. We have to proactively create a society in which the voice of people from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds are heard and their experiences acknowledged. With this knowledge the dismissal of Megan Markle’s experiences by some is unacceptable.

The last 24 hours have shown how much further we have to go to create a culture where people feel they can be open about their mental health. A culture where people are not judged for sharing their experiences, but where they are listened to and provided with the support that they need.