Accusing Meghan Markle of lying is an abuse of free speech and needlessly harms young people already in a mental health crisis
By suggesting Megan Markle is lying about having suicidal thoughts, Piers Morgan is betraying young people whose mental health is already suffering because of Covid. His comments could do irreparable damage.
The royal rumble continues…
The latest fallout from ‘When Harry (and Meghan) met Oprah’ is an on-air flounce by ITV presenter Piers Morgan, followed by his departure from the channel’s Good Morning Britain breakfast show.
His storming out was triggered by some calm but clearly heartfelt criticism from the show’s weather presenter Alex Beresford. He took issue with Morgan’s attitude to Meghan Markle’s claims in her interview with Oprah Winfrey.
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These claims included accusations of racist comments by at least one member of Britain’s royal family and the admission that she had felt suicidal during her pregnancy with her son Archie.
Morgan’s attitude was – and still is – that Markle was lying about everything. “I don’t believe a word she says, Meghan Markle,” he said on air. “I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”
After a day to reflect, he doubled down on this in a tweet that included a highly ironic Churchill quote about free speech warriors not being able to take it when someone “says anything back.”
On Monday, I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions. pic.twitter.com/bv6zpz4Roe
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 10, 2021
And this is where he crossed the line. By accusing her of lying about her mental health, no matter what he thinks – or even what the truth is – he is betraying and harming young people already in the grip of a Covid-enhanced mental health crisis.
I have no skin in this game. I couldn’t give less of a toss about any of the people involved. I watched two seasons of ‘Suits,’ quite liked it, but wasn’t glued. Morgan has only affected me personally by being the worst kind of keyboard Arsenal fan, whose embarrassing behaviour rubs off on the rest of us.
I don’t know the basis for Morgan’s opinion. He has a personal beef with Markle that only he seems to care about because she “ghosted” him (his words) after going for a drink together. Perhaps it’s that. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that, if someone says they feel or felt suicidal (or depressed or anxious or any other cause or symptom of mental illness) you should not, under any circumstances, call them a liar. Even if you really, really think that’s the case. And especially not on a TV show watched by millions.
Because if you do that, you will make it harder to talk or completely prevent people from talking about their mental health issues. You will bolster the stigma around mental health. You will make them feel that it’s wrong for them to talk about it or, if they do, that some out-of-touch professional contrarian will declare that ‘free speech’ means he can call them out on it with absolutely zero proof or insight.
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We have here the absolute definition of a ‘bigger picture’ scenario. Not talking about mental health issues ruins lives, it kills people.
It doesn’t matter what colour, sex, nationality, what level of wealth or fame, or how ‘based’ or ‘woke’ you think someone is – it will f**k them up one way or another. Could be suicide, could be drink, could be drugs, could be self-harm, could be harming someone else, could simply be having a more miserable life than they need to.
And, right now, it’s f***ing up millions of young people who were already going through a mental health crisis before a global pandemic came along and decided to chuck some petrol on the fire.
In fact, it actually doesn’t matter if someone is lying. (I mean, I’d argue that lying about it is a sign of mental illness, but there you go.) That one individual ‘faking’ it is insignificant compared to the countless numbers who are going through varying degrees of pain but are keeping schtum about it or masking it because people make them feel like there’s something wrong with them if they speak out.
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I get it. Some of us feel a bit uncomfortable when people over-share or talk about ‘feelings’ – and young people seem to do it a lot more, right? I’ve written on mental health for years. I’ve opened up in front of millions of readers about my own issues, helping to open the floodgates for that kind of writing – and even I squirm.
I’m a 40-something British male, for heaven’s sake. I can’t help it.
But I – and everyone else – have to grow up and get over that. Or at least keep it to ourselves. What someone else feels or says they feel isn’t for us to publicly judge. It’s hard in the social media age to explain this, but people don’t need to express a take on everything.
How does it hurt us if Meghan Markle says she was suicidal? How does it hurt Piers Morgan? It doesn’t. (It’s also really weird to get angry about it.)
What does hurt is casually dismissing what she or anyone else says about their state of mind. Markle is popular among young people, so hearing her speak could give one of them the guts to say that they feel the same way – and that might be a life saved.
Attack her words, accuse her of acting, undermine her because you don’t like her or because she doesn’t want to be your friend, and it might not be.
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