Billie Jean King is calling for greater acceptance of mental health struggles following Oprah Winfrey's interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
In one of the most heartbreaking moments of the Sunday CBS sitdown, Markle revealed that, after joining the royal family, she had struggled with thoughts of taking her own life. But when she approached Buckingham Palace's human resources department about seeking care, she was told that doing so would be bad for "the institution."
Markle said she was "ashamed" to tell her husband of her struggles. "But I knew that if I didn't say it, that I would do it," she said. "And ... I just didn't want to be alive anymore."
“You had the conversation, ‘I don't want to be alive anymore?’” Oprah asked.
“It wasn’t even, ‘I don’t want to,’” Meghan said. “It was like, ‘These are the thoughts that I’m having the middle of the night that are very clear … and I’m scared, because this is very real. This isn't some abstract idea. This is methodical, and this is not who I am.’”
In the two-hour special, the duke and duchess painted a distressing portrait of their post-marriage life within the royal family. While she was pregnant with their son, Archie, senior members of the family allegedly discussed "how dark his skin might be when he’s born" and whether he would be deserving of a prince's title and corresponding security. This was in addition to racist coverage from British tabloids.
King singled out Markle's unanswered cry for help as a key moment in the interview. "Among the revelations from the Meghan and Harry interview is Meghan’s struggle with mental health," the lesbian tennis legend tweeted. "Her honesty will hopefully lead to more acceptance and more help for those who need it."
King's tweet and Markle's remark sparked a conversation about the stigma still surrounding mental health problems, which prevents sufferers from receiving care.
Markle's journey will resonate with many LGBTQ+ folks — particularly young people, who due to stigma are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight and cisgender peers, according to the Trevor Project. The group estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year.
Knowing the importance of found family in the face of familial rejection, lesbian comic Cameron Esposito sent a "queer laser beam of support" to the couple.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.