TRIGGER WARNING: The below story contains a description of suicidal ideation. This content may be triggering for some readers.
One of the most heartbreaking and raw moments of Oprah Winfrey's CBS interview with Meghan Markle was when the Duchess of Sussex detailed her struggles with mental health, namely that she faced suicidal thoughts and ideation during her time as a working royal.
The revelation came when Winfrey questioned Markle about the toll the media's often racist and merciless treatment, paired with the lack of support and protection from The Firm, took on her.
"I just didn't see a solution. I would sit up at night ... It was all happening just because I was breathing," Meghan said. "I was ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he's suffered. But I knew if I didn't say it, I'd do it. And I just didn't want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought... I thought it would've solved everything for everyone."
Meghan added that she went to "one of the most senior people" in "the institution" to ask to go somewhere to seek treatment and find help and she was told she couldn't because it "wouldn't be good for the institution." She also went to the palace's Human Resources department "begging" for help and was told that, despite their heart breaking for the then-pregnant Meghan, they couldn't help because she "was not a paid employee of the institution."
She also revealed that when she got to the U.K., her passport, driver's license, and keys were turned over the palace, so she had no way to seek help on her own or escape the situation.
Markle also said that the same day that she shared her suicidal ideation with Harry—on the steps of their cottage—the two had to go to an official event at Royal Albert Hall. Through tears, she explained that she attended alongside her husband because she feared if she were left home alone she might hurt herself. "Every time the lights went down in that royal box, I was just weeping," she said. "You have no idea what's going on for someone behind closed doors."
When Prince Harry joined the interview later, Oprah asked what this revelation was like for him at the time. Harry explained how Meghan's trauma and his inability to provide immediate support affected him: "I had no idea what to do. I wasn't prepared for that. I went to a very dark place as well. I wanted to be there for her."
Harry revealed that he felt he couldn't turn to his family for help. "That's just not a conversation that would be had... I guess I was ashamed for admitting [that Meghan needed help]... For the family they have this mentality of this is just how it is. You just can't change it." But his wife's struggles felt very similar to what his mother faced. (Princess Diana suffered from eating disorders and suicidal ideation.)
"My biggest concern was history repeating itself," Harry said. Interestingly enough, Meghan revealed that it was one of Diana's closest friends that offered support, friendship, and advice to Meghan during the past few years. "Who else could understand what it's actually like on the inside?" Meghan said of the unnamed confidant.
Harry and Markle also said that, ultimately, their decision to step back from royal life saved Meghan's life.
The conversation ended on a positive note, with Markle saying she feels as though she is stronger and more hopeful about her future, and that she and Harry are not just surviving, but thriving now. "It takes so much courage to admit that you need help... to admit how dark of a place you're in... I'm still standing... My hope for people in the takeaway from this is to know that there's another side. And to know that life is worth living."
If you or someone you know is at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741 to message with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free.