Harry reveals he was left 'lying in foetal position' after Afghanistan tour as it triggered 'trauma' about Diana's death

30 August 2023, 09:52 | Updated: 30 August 2023, 12:09

The Duke of Sussex opened up in the new docuseries.
The Duke of Sussex opened up in the new docuseries. Picture: Netflix

By Jenny Medlicott

Prince Harry said he experienced an ‘unravelling’ after he returned from his tour of Afghanistan as he admitted it triggered trauma about the death of his mother in his new Invictus Games docuseries.

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The Duke of Sussex has revealed the struggles he faced following the tour in 2012, as he said it dredged up trauma from Princess Diana’s death that he had never really addressed.

Speaking in his Heart of Invictus docuseries on Netflix, Prince Harry said he had no “support structure” and nobody around him “could really help”.

The £80m docuseries, which was released on Netflix at 8am on Wednesday, follows the lives of those preparing for the Invictus Games.

Meghan Markle appears in the five-party documentary series, although only in a brief number of scenes.

The games are an adaptive sports competition launched by Harry in 2014 for injured service personnel and veterans.

Speaking on the new show, the Duke opened up about his experience of post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said was triggered by his return from a tour of Afghanistan in 2012 as it triggered an “unravelling”.

“I didn't have that support structure, that network or that expert advice to identify actually what was going on with me.

“Unfortunately, like most of us the first time you really consider therapy is when you are lying on the floor in the foetal position probably wishing you had dealt with some of this stuff previously.”

“But the stuff that was coming up was from 1997,” he said.

“From the age of 12, losing my mum at such a young age, the trauma that I had I was never really aware of, it was never discussed, I didn't really talk about it - and I suppressed it like most youngsters would have done but when it all came fizzing out I was bouncing off the walls, I was like what is going on here, I am now feeling everything as apposed to being numb."

Read more: Meghan to join Harry at Invictus Games amid claims she won't be in UK for first anniversary of Queen's death

Read more: Harry to return to the UK ahead of first anniversary of the late Queen's death - 'but won't be joined by Meghan'

The new docuseries was launched on Wednesday.
The new docuseries was launched on Wednesday. Picture: Netflix
Harry at the Invictus Games in 2017.
Harry at the Invictus Games in 2017. Picture: Alamy

He also said when he first joined the military mental illness was a “dirty word” which has charged his ambition to cure the stigma around it.

“When I joined the military, mental health, mental illness was a dirty word.

”One of the things I am most proud of is the work that [Invictus Games co-founder] David Wiseman and I did giving talks to people inside the military.

“We encouraged them to accept that if mental health means metal illness, which it doesn't, but if it does in your mentality, then let's just put that to one side and talk about mental fitness.

“If there is a stigma within the military there will be a stigma within society. If we really want to cure the stigma in society then we need to lead the way.”

Meghan only appears briefly in the docuseries.
Meghan only appears briefly in the docuseries. Picture: Netflix

Prince Harry made a surprise appearance to introduce the series in a special screening in California, adding “today is all about Invictus”.

The series also shows a private moment shared between Harry and Meghan as the Duke admits he’s feeling nervous ahead of a speech at the Salute to Freedom Gala for military veterans in New York.

He is heard saying: “We haven't done this for a while... My heart [is] like ‘digidigadigadiga’.”

All five episodes of the series were made available at 8am on Wednesday ahead of the Invictus Games, which are set to be held in Düsseldorf on September 9 for eight days.

The Duke acted as the executive producer for the show and forms part of the Sussexes’ deal with Netflix, which included their documentary about the Royal Family last year.

It comes as the Sussexes face pressure to see successful ratings after the couple’s reported $20m deal with Spotify collapsed earlier this year.

Prince Harry is expected to return to the UK on the eve of the anniversary of the late Queen's death but is not expected to be joined by Meghan and will not meet with his family.