Hollywood actress, Taraji P. Henson speaks on fighting the stigma of mental health issues
Taraji P. Henson who recently started the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her late father, to eradicate the stigma around mental health care in the African-American community is taking her message across the world.
“The suicide rate has taken off. It amazes me that 5-year-olds are contemplating suicide. That’s a word you shouldn’t even understand at five years old” the Empire star said.
“We don’t talk about mental health, we don’t deal with it. For generations, we’ve been told it’s a weakness, to pray our problems away and that’s just not gonna cut it” she added.
On Friday, the actress urged members of the Black Caucus of the US Senate to join her in talking about mental illness and getting people the help they need adding that she wants mental healthcare to be taught in schools.
“If we can teach children about sex education and physical education, why not mental? That’s where we start attacking this issue: with the children.” Henson argues that if mental healthcare becomes a part of the school curriculum, then parents will be forced to talk about mental health care with their kids. “You’ve got to help me with my homework,” she says.
Henson continues to speak out about her own struggles with anxiety and depression. “I feel like I’ve really found my purpose. It’s hard, but he knew it and he was able to get the help that he needed.” And Henson tries to focus on the positive memories of her dad. “Why focus on the negative? He’s not here. It wasn’t all bad with my dad. He had his moments. But when you’re dealing with mental illness, that’s what you’re gonna have. But most of the memories were good,” she says. “I miss him. He needs to see me now.”
Her father died in 2005, just two years after her son’s father, William Lamar Johnson, “was murdered, brutally in Washington, D.C.,” she recalls. “It was time for us to get help.”
Following that difficult time in her life, Henson says, finding a therapist she could trust was hard. “It was like looking for a purple unicorn with a 24-carat-gold-horn. I say that jokingly, but it’s serious. The reason why we don’t have many psychiatrists of color, or psychologists of color, or therapists of color, is because we don’t talk about it at home.”
Now, she talks to her therapist twice a week. In person, if she’s in town and if not, she chooses to Skype or Facetime. “I can call her at any time I’m having a moment and she’s there. I was blessed enough to find someone I really gel with. She gets me.” The mother of one and her fiancé Kelvin Hayden sometimes meet with her therapist together. “I want people to know it’s okay,.I don’t know what human is not suffering from some sort of anxiety or depression.”