Time to lose the stigma. Prince Harry joined former President George W. Bush at a symposium on invisible wounds at the George W. Bush Institute in Orlando on Sunday, May 8, to discuss their joint efforts to reduce the stigma associated with veteran mental-health problems.
Ahead of this evening’s grand opening ceremony, when the British prince will be joined by a Michelle Obama and Morgan Freeman, Harry joined forces with former President Bush to talk about the important difference he hopes the Invictus Games will make in the public perception of such issues. The discussion was part of a daylong symposium introduced by the former president’s wife, Laura Bush.
“The Invictus Games in 2014 in London smashed the stigma around physical wounds,” Harry told the panel, which also included Master Sergeant Israel Del Toro Jr. and Lance Corporal John-James Chalmers, both Invictus competitors. “What I really hope for Orlando is that we can do the same for Invisible injuries."
"I've spoken to everybody who has severe PTSD to minor depression, anxiety — whatever it might be,” continued the 31-year-old royal. “Everybody says the same thing: If you can deal with it soon enough, if you can deal with it quick enough and have the ability and the platform to speak about it openly, then you can fix these problems.”
“And if you can't fix it, you can at least find coping mechanisms,” he went on. “There's no reason people should be hiding in shame after they've served their country."
One way Harry feels the public could help is by giving veterans jobs. "If I ran a business, I would want individuals like this regardless of their situation,” he said. “I'd want them for what they stand for, for the training that they've had, for the values that they stand up for.”
“What I love about America is the 'thank you for your service.' But now it's got to be more than a shake of the hand or a thank you. They need opportunities."
Both Prince Harry and Bush have made reducing the stigma associated with invisible wounds a key priority of their work with veterans.
Bush highlighted a major theme when he suggested dropping the D from the end of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). "We don't view it as a disorder, we view it as an injury," Bush said during the panel discussion. Harry nodded his head in agreement.
The handsome British royal is also making a focus on veterans' mental health a key part of the Heads Together campaign he is undertaking with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. He strongly believes that suffering in silence is dangerous, and wrong for those it affects. He hopes that the Invictus Games in Orlando will shine a spotlight on those who have been brave enough to speak up and ask for the help they need, and for others to follow their lead.
Prince Harry’s Invictus Games Orlando 2016 kicks off at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Coverage continues until Thursday, May 12.
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