How Prince Harry finally found his calling

Katherine Chatfield
·Columnist
·5-min read

When Prince Harry’s new role as Chief Impact Officer at mental health awareness platform BetterUp was announced, there was the predictable furore surrounding his appointment. 

After it was suggested he will likely be earning a seven-figure salary for his new role, royal watchers predicted – correctly – he’d be accused of "selling his status and his name".

Prince Harry visits the NHS Manchester Resilience Hub on September 4, 2017 in Manchester, England.
Prince Harry has a new role as Chief Impact Officer at mental health awareness platform BetterUp. Photo: Getty Images

The CEO of BetterUp, Alexi Robichaux, was also forced to defend his new staff member, and deny that hiring Prince Harry was a publicity stunt. “Look, we’ll take the press, it certainly helps,” he said.

“But that’s not the driving motivation.”

While Harry might be grateful of the extra income after revealing he’d been cut off from the royal purse, there seems to be more to his new job than money. Although it’s likely he will have lots of brand ambassador duties, with just a few executive responsibilities, it’s not a lightweight appointment. “It’s a meaningful and meaty role,” confirmed Robichaux.

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It appears at the age of 36, Harry has finally found his calling. His new role focuses on “helping to change the dialogue around mental health to focus on strength building and mental fitness,” which means he’s able to pull together all the threads of his previous life experiences – both personal and professional - and use them to be successful in his new gig.

Harry has personal experience of dealing with mental health issues, something he believes stems from losing his mum when he was so young. “I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions,” he told UK's The Telegraph in 2017. "I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well.”

 Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet members of the public outside the Sydney Opera House on October 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.
It appears at the age of 36, Harry has finally found his calling. Photo: Getty Images

Before he spoke openly about his own mental health issues, he’d already started to advocate for others around mental wellbeing. In 2014 he set up the Invictus Games, to help former servicemen and women use sport and physical exercise as a way to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

In 2016, he generalised the topic, and along with William and Kate, set up Heads Together, a campaign to try and reduce the stigma around mental health, and change the conversation on mental wellbeing.

It wasn’t long before he started to advocate for mental fitness in his other work too. The charity he set up in 2014, Sentabale, to support young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana, started to move away from purely fundraising initiatives; recent years show them talking about how to encourage ‘resilience’ and using terms that refer to mental fitness in terms of dealing with HIV diagnoses. At the same time, Harry worked alongside the British military and their HeadFIT project to introduce a mandatory mental fitness training initiative for members of the military.

rince Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend the
Prince Harry claimed the was financially cut off by his father, Prince Charles. Photo: Getty Images

"There should be no difference between how we view our physical fitness and mental fitness — and training both will help our servicemen and women excel, as well as being best prepared for what they may face, in any situation,” he said. 

Just like his Heads Together project, his professional stance was inspired by a personal realisation. He admitted that during his late twenties, while he was in the army, he told The Telegraph he often felt “on the verge of punching someone,” and took up boxing “because it’s a really good way of letting out aggression. And that saved me.”

Harry even spoke about mental resilience during his 2020 tour of Australia, telling a group of farmers in Dubbo, “You need to know a part of being strong and tough is having the courage to ask for help when you need it. If I may speak personally, we are all in this together, because asking for help was one of the best decisions that I ever made.”

Now, finally, Harry gets to put all of these things together; his experience of dealing with deep personal grief, his advocacy work and his military service are all tied together in a neat package. As Robichaux says: “He's been doing this work in his own life for years. He has an incredible track record related to advancing this mission of mental fitness.”

Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry left their job as senior royal last year. Photo: Getty Images

But although Harry has been involved in many mental health initiatives as a member of the royal family, this role is different. This time he’s not doing it as a patron of a charity, or a figurehead who’s brought in at the last minute. He’s doing it as a paid employee; someone who has been hired specifically for his experiences and what he can bring to the table. By leaving the royal fold, he’s been able to choose his own path, and for someone who’s never had any agency in his life, this will surely be enough to make him passionate about succeeding in the job.

Losing his mum as a child was the start of Harry’s journey with discovering the importance and impact of mental fitness, so it seems ironic that his new role is reminiscent of how Diana approached life after she’d left the royal family. Like his mum, Harry has found something he’s passionate about, and carved a niche for himself in that arena, and like Diana, he’s learnt to harness his vulnerabilities and turn them into a force for good. It appears Prince Harry has finally found his calling.

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