A reported 17.1 million viewers watched Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Prince Harry on Sunday, according to Nielsen data, providing a mega audience for Meghan’s claim she had previously considered suicide.
It was a bombshell revelation to hear that a member of the British royal family could harbor such dark thoughts.
The reaction from the public was even more disturbing. Social media posts referred to Meghan’s announcement as the greatest acting performance of her life. She was called a liar and a crybaby.
Piers Morgan, an anchor of “Good Morning Britain” has since left the TV show due to his criticism of Meghan in the aftermath of the Oprah interview. Morgan said, among other things, he doesn’t believe Meghan’s story of suicide.
Backlash such as this is precisely the reason so many people are reluctant to seek help for depression, according to Bryan Herriman, director of CHEER Mental Health in McMinnville.
“I watched the interview and I think she was very brave to speak up and voice that she’s had those thoughts before,” said Herriman. “Many people don’t speak up. They think if they do, they appear weaker so they don’t talk about it.”
Mental health officials say the reaction to Meghan’s statements about suicide are common. When people do speak up, they are frequently blamed for the problem, or they are not believed. So they opt to suffer in silence.
“At one point in the interview, Prince Harry was asked why he didn’t go for help,” said Herriman. “His response was that it’s just not something they do.”
CHEER has crisis hotlines that operate 24-7 for people in need of assistance. Herriman said it’s common to receive a call from a person contemplating suicide.
“We immediately start working to de-escalate that crisis,” said Herriman. “We alert local authorities if we know where that person is calling from and we try to keep them on the line long enough for someone to respond.”
Herriman provided figures from the Tennessee Alliance of Mental Health Organizations that show over 1 million Tennesseans experience depression. He also said an average of three Tennesseans die by suicide every day.
Herriman said CHEER has seen an increased need for its services over this past year due to COVID issues and he’s thankful Tennessee places an emphasis on mental health.
“The last four or five years, Tennessee has increased mental health dollars,” said Herriman.