Prince William has revealed he is very proud of his mum Diana, Princess of Wales, for speaking out about her bulimia battle publicly when she was alive.
William is set to appear in ‘Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia’ on Channel 4 later this week, alongside former newsreader Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy who struggled with anorexia - an eating disorder and mental illness which Mark said almost killed her.
William, alongside the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, is keen to keep conversations around mental health flowing, as part of the Heads Together campaign. Their aim is to end the stigma around mental illness, which can stop others seeking the help they desperately need.
In the documentary, William said he hopes his children George and Charlotte “can grow up in a world where mental health is completely normalised”.
The show, which airs on 24 August at 10pm, follows Mark and Maddy as they explore the devastating effects of eating disorders and the availability of suitable care, discussing the subject with patients, their families and Prince William.
Maddy spent three years suffering with anorexia, a mental illness which Mark said “came very close to killing her”. Yet there was barely any help or support available to the family.
“I didn’t think I was worth living, I didn’t think I was worth saving, I didn’t feel like I was worth getting better,” Maddy revealed.
In the show, she told William she was really inspired by Diana’s decision to discuss her bulimia battle so publicly.
In a 1995 interview, Diana said: “I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed I couldn’t cope with the pressures. I had bulimia for a number of years, and that’s like a secret disease.
“You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable.”
Mark said it was “amazing” that Diana had spoken out about the issue 22 years ago and asked William whether he was proud of her.
“Yeah absolutely,” William responded. “These are illnesses. Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health.”
William also addressed the fact that, as a father, he could relate to how Mark felt when his daughter was very ill: “As a father, just not knowing what to do, I can completely relate to that. You’d be stuck because these are the people you love most in life and you probably feel very helpless.”
Mark admitted he had taken his “eye off the ball” with his eldest daughter and urged William to “keep an eye on Charlotte and George”.
Previously speaking to HuffPost UK, Mark said he found it very difficult to access help for his daughter when she was in the throes of her illness.
“The whole question of mental health is not given the right priority in this country, it’s not given the same priority as other physical health issues - and yet we’re fast entering a situation where there is an epidemic in children’s health,” he said.
“I just want to see mental health treated by governments as seriously as other health issues.”
In response to the documentary, a spokesperson for eating disorders charity Beat, said: “Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. As Prince William has said, we need to be more open as a society in talking about mental illness.
“No-one with an eating disorder should feel ashamed or unable to speak about their illness, and we encourage anyone who might be secretly struggling, to reach out for help as soon as possible. All evidence shows the sooner you get help for your eating disorder the better your chances of a speedy recovery.”
‘Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia’ airs on Channel 4 on Thursday 24 August at 10pm.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org