The 'Empire' actress is taking the stigma of mental illness in African American communities head-on.
In communities of color, mental illness is generally a taboo topic. Few people want to discuss mental illness and any symptoms of even more common illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, are brushed off. Even before the pandemic set in in the United States, actress Taraji P. Henson dedicated herself to improve mental health in African American communities. As the pandemic continues, folks are experiencing symptoms at even greater rates, a fact that Henson is not unaware of. Therefore, she is ramping up efforts through her new mental health program in order to combat the impacts of these unprecedented times, Entertainment Tonight reports.
"When [the outbreak] happened, my heart went out and I just knew that people were suffering and they're suffering alone in isolation," she said in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta. "I'm blessed. I can call my therapist. I can pay for it without thinking about it, but what about those who can't?" She then highlighted that black communities are disproportionately at risk (of course, this is true during any time of the year, but especially so during the pandemic). Alfiee Breland-Noble, a psychologist and mental health counselor who joined the actress for the interview, added, "African Americans and people of color are disproportionately affected by not only the virus but the secondary mental health impacts associated with the virus."
Therefore, Henson partnered with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation to help black folks and other people of color who are suffering due to the outbreak. She revealed, "So we created a virtual fund-raising campaign for free sessions for people of color and, you know, disadvantaged neighborhoods." The Hidden Figures star then got incredibly emotional, no doubt thinking about those troubled by the current goings-on in the country. Tearing up, she said, "I'm so nervous. There is so much going on right now. My brain is just..." She then burst into tears before emphatically discussing the importance of mental health and raising awareness about mental illness.
"It's just like, it won't let up, you know? It's like I'm trying to stop a bleeding wound and it just keeps bleeding, you know? But I'm raising money to help those who can't," she said while in tears. "It's tragic and it's traumatizing. And I mean, at this point it seems like we have to save ourselves." Henson wants to erase the deep stigma of mental illness through her new project, especially in minority communities. She affirmed, "My hope is that we eradicate the stigma around mental health in the black community." Through her campaign, the actress has already helped a plethora of people. There is no doubt that she will reach even more folks during these challenging times.
Mental health is often a taboo subject in the African-American community. That’s the reason actress Taraji P. Henson is inviting people struggling with mental illness to open up. pic.twitter.com/u6X1crLesB— Brut America (@brutamerica) April 3, 2019
Henson was first motivated to launch her initiative after seeing what her father Boris Henson went through after his service in Vietnam. "They would call him ‘crazy’ you know — ‘You know Boris. He crazy.’ And that’s the stigma around it," she said in an interview with NBC. "In the African American community, it’s taboo. For so long, it’s been looked upon as a weakness in our community." Hopefully, with her outreach, the black community can experience some much-needed healing.
"My father always taught me to live my truth because he lived his, and his truth included mental illness." #suicideprevention— Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds (@MGHClayCenter) September 25, 2018
Taraji P. Henson wants to break the #stigma of #mentalhealth: "I'm here to tell you, I have a therapist" ~ https://t.co/H3Yw1atVND via @ABC