LONDON • Britain's Prince Harry suffered "total chaos" before eventually seeking help to deal with the death of his mother, the late Princess Diana, he said in an interview published on Monday.
Speaking to The Telegraph newspaper, the 32-year-old prince said he had spent years trying to ignore his emotions following her death in 1997 when he was just 12.
"My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help? It's only going to make you sad. It's not going to bring her back," he said.
It was not until the age of 28 that he sought help from mental health professionals after encouragement from others, including his older brother, Prince William.
"It was 20 years of not thinking about it and then two years of total chaos... I didn't know what was wrong with me," he said.
While he has referred to grief in the past and supported mental health charities, it is rare for him to speak openly about his own experience.
Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed were killed in a car crash in a Paris underpass on Aug 31, 1997.
Prince Harry said he recently confronted the grief of losing his mother and tackled the pressures of royal life, including overcoming a feeling of "fight or flight" during engagements.
"I generally don't know how we (royals) stay sane. I don't have any secrets, I've probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions," he said.
During a decade in the British army, he served twice in Afghanistan and went on to meet soldiers in a recovery unit, an experience he said had an impact on his health. "You park your own issues because of what you are confronted with," he told The Telegraph.
Describing himself as "a problem" through much of his 20s, he said that in addition to seeking treatment, he found taking up boxing helped. "That really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone. Being able to punch someone with pads was certainly easier," he said.
Prince William and his wife, Kate, are campaigning along with Prince Harry to end the stigma attached to mental health, supporting charities through their Heads Together initiative. Prince Harry said that once he started talking about how he felt, he discovered he was "part of quite a big club" and he encouraged others to open up.