Prince Harry's mental health encouragement to Māori

The young Rotorua locals who met with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during Wednesday's visit say their main take-away was the importance of talking about mental health.

Hana Tapiata, Te Mahara Swanson Hall and Wharehuia Evans all spoke to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a private meeting after the morning's pōwhiri on Te Papaiouru Marae.

The three are all mental health advocates with a focus on empowering Māori communities.

They shared their own experiences with Harry, and discussed the work he's done for mental health awareness in the past.

"[We discussed] what they can do to help us as Māori people, who do have the worst statistics when it comes to mental health in this country," Ms Swanson Hall told Newshub.

Mental health has been a consistent theme on this royal tour, with Harry making headlines when he discussed his own battles in Wellington on Monday.

Ms Tapiata says being open about discussing the issue will help to reduce the stigma around it.

"Talking about it was one of the key messages we got in the short amount of time with him," she says. "Bringing down barriers and normalising it."

She's hopeful that international media attention will bring more awareness to New Zealand's problem with mental illness.

"It's good to see with the spotlight following them, highlighting things that are already happening."

Mr Evans, who belongs to local iwi Te Arawa, says the Duke is a role model for men who feel constrained by traditional gender roles into not talking about their feelings.

"Listening to Prince Harry and his opinion that it is tough to talk, that really hit home for me. A lot of Māori men, and men in general in New Zealand, say 'she'll be right'. We're tough, but it is tough to talk about it and - I think that's a key take-out."

He says Meghan supported her husband's theory that being up-front is the key to fighting mental illness.

"That's what we're trying to achieve. Open spaces, open areas and open to talk about whatever."