Warzone return sparked 'unravelling' related to trauma of losing mother, Harry says in docuseries

The duke served in Afghanistan twice. Credit: PA

The Duke of Sussex has described how returning from his final tour of Afghanistan triggered an "unravelling" related to the trauma of losing his mother aged 12.

Harry, speaking in his new Heart of Invictus docuseries on Netflix, said he did not have a “support structure” to help him deal with his mental health struggles after the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

The duke, whose troubled relationship with the royal family has long been documented, said the impact of Diana’s death was never discussed and he finally sought therapy after "lying on the floor in the foetal position".

The five-part documentary, which was launched in the UK at 8am on Wednesday, follows a group of former military servicemen and women on their road to the paralympic-style sporting competition Invictus, which Harry set up in 2014 for injured and sick military personnel and veterans.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex being filmed as they meet a competitor from the Netherlands at the Invictus Games athletics events. Credit: PA

In the second episode, entitled Invisible Injuries, Harry tells how he suppressed the trauma of losing his mother in a car crash – the 26th anniversary of which is on Thursday – but his return to the UK from his second frontline tour to Afghanistan in 2012 brought it all back.

"I can only speak from my personal experience, my tour of Afghanistan in 2012, flying Apaches," he said.

"Somewhere after that, there was an unravelling. The trigger to me was actually returning from Afghanistan.

"But the stuff that was coming up was from the age of, from 1997, 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 then when it all came fizzing out, I was bouncing off the walls.

"I was like ‘what is going on here? I’m now feeling everything as opposed to being numb’.

He added: “The biggest struggle for me was … no-one around me really could help.

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

"Unfortunately, like most of us, the first time you really consider therapy is when you’re lying on the floor in the foetal position, probably wishing that you’d dealt with some of the stuff previously, and that’s what I really want to change."

Harry at the wheelchair basketball final during the Invictus Games in 2022. Credit: PA

The duke, meanwhile, made a surprise appearance at a special US preview screening of the new five-part show in California, which has been more than two years in the making.

He emerged to introduce it, telling the audience about the sacrifices that veterans and their families make while serving their country.

"You guys get to watch it tonight – or at least two episodes – to whet the appetite for the rest of it,” Harry was seen saying in a video circulated on social media.

In the first 45-minute episode, Harry discusses how he never wanted to serve in the armed forces as a father.

The duke, who has two children Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet with Meghan Markle, is chatting during a hike in California with his friends, former Invictus competitors JJ Chalmers and David Wiseman, and says: "I’ve always had myself down as being the dad that I could never be serving while having kids."

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