Taraji P. Henson Reveals Depression, Anxiety Battle

By David Konow 04/04/19

"When they yell ‘Cut’ and ‘That’s a wrap,’ I go home to very serious problems. I’m still a real human," Henson said.

Taraji P. Henson

Academy Award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson has opened up to Variety about her battle with depression and anxiety.

”I suffer from depression,” the Empire actress revealed. “My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new.”

Henson has had a prolific and successful career in Hollywood, but she admits that while the lives of the rich and famous may appear to be filled with non-stop glamour, they also deal with real world problems. 

"I think there’s a misconception with people in the limelight that we have it all together, and because we have money now and are living out our dreams, everything is fine. That’s not the case," Henson explains. "When they yell ‘Cut’ and ‘That’s a wrap,’ I go home to very serious problems. I’m still a real human."

Last year, she launched a foundation to help support mental health in the African American community.

”We’re walking around broken, wounded and hurt, and we don’t think it’s OK to talk about it,” she says. “We don’t talk about it at home. It’s shunned. It’s something that makes you look weak. We’re told to pray it away. Everyone was always asking me, ‘Do you have a charity?’ Well, dammit, this is going to be my calling, because I’m sick of this. People are killing themselves. People are numbing out on drugs. Not everything is fixed with a pill.”

The organization is called the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her late father. “Silence for Black people must end. We want to provide a safe environment for African Americans to discuss their concerns in a space where they will not be persecuted or misunderstood,” the organization explained in a statement.

Henson was inspired to launch this foundation because of her father’s own struggles with mental illness. Boris Henson was a veteran of the Vietnam War, and he suffered from alcoholism and PTSD.

As Henson explains, “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to know physical or emotional support. I stand in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they’re black.”

One of the goals of the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is to provide more mental health support for African-American youths, and to provide support for re-entry programs for people coming out of prison. The foundation also wants to increase the presence of African Americans in the mental health care field, in the hope that it will encourage more African Americans to get the mental health help they need.

The foundation’s website reports, “One in five Americans suffer from mental illness. African Americans are the least likely population to seek treatment. We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as inept, weak, and/or inadequate. African Americans also have a history of being misdiagnosed, so there is mistrust associated with therapy.”

The foundation's statement continues, “People trust who they know and what they know. Having an African-American or culturally competent therapist gives way to the idea of opening up.”

Henson explains, “My white friends have standing appointments with their therapists. I was like, ‘Why aren’t we doing that?’ In our culture, it’s taboo.”

Henson had personal traumas of her own that inspired the launch of her foundation, including the murder of her son’s father. Henson and her son both went into therapy, and she hopes her example will encourage more people to get help themselves.

As she explained to the Chicago Sun Times, “I think people feel safe when they see someone they look up to, and can go, ‘Oh wow. She’s just like me!’ We’re all humans. And we’re all in this thing called life, together. I’m trying to use my platform to do some good. If you know someone or if you are someone suffering from mental illness, just know you are not alone.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.