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How Taraji P. Henson is combatting the stigma around mental health with African-Americans

You never know what people are going through. No matter how successful they are or happy they may appear, there is still a good chance they could be suffering inside.

Such is the case with Baby Boy & Empire actress Taraji P. Henson.

The 48-year-old revealed she had been dealing with mental health issues at the opening of her non-profit, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which is an organization aimed at combating the stigma around mental health in the African-American community.


The announcement was news to all being that she had not publically admitted dealing with mental health before and is the latest of what has been a sweeping turn of dialogue surrounding a battle millions of people face every day. She said during her Boutique of Hope launch event, according to Variety,

“The misconception about celebrities (is) that we have it all together and we’re perfect, and we’re not. Our kids aren’t perfect, we’re suffering and struggling just like the regular person and money doesn’t help.”

Her son, Marcell, struggles with mental health issues after his father was murdered in 2003. And The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is named after Henson’s father, who also battled mental health challenges after serving overseas. Henson wrote in an open letter,

“My dad fought in The Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support. I stand in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they’re black.”

Henson also raised money Saturday with the aim of transforming the bathrooms of inner-city schools from a place ridicule into a place of peace and positivity by selling her personal wardrobe.

The goal is also that Henson’s revelation will normalize mental health, so “people go, ‘Oh wow she’s going through it? Well I’m all right then.’”

It was like looking for a unicorn, and the reason that happens is that we don’t talk about it in our community; it’s taboo, it’s looked upon as a weakness or we’re demonized for expressing rage for traumas we’ve been through,” Henson told Variety.

“I have a lot of white friends and that’s what got me going. They say, ‘You don’t talk to anybody? Girl, I’m going to see my shrink every Thursday at 3 o’clock.’ So I was like why don’t we do that in our community?”

She said: “I’m here to tell you that when they tell ‘cut’ and the cameras go away, I go home to real problems just like everybody else.”

Mental wellness has received the most awareness from public figures than ever before. From the sports icons like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan to personalities like Charlamagne, it seems like the collective society is ready to address these issues head-on.

Luckily we have platforms like Mental Health America which provide services that make dealing with mental health easier. They provide screenings, literature and have professionals on call.

When more public figures, like Taraji, come forward, it makes it easier for others to do so as well. It’s okay not to be okay and it’s important to know that there is help out there. Taraji P. Henson is brave for stepping up.