Taraji P Henson Talks Breaking Mental Health Stigma, Therapy

By Victoria Kim 09/26/18

"I go home to problems just like everybody else. I’m here to tell you, I have a therapist. I probably need to see her more often.”

Taraji P Henson

Actress Taraji P. Henson is continuing her campaign to create dialogue about mental health in the black community.

In a recent appearance on GMA Day, Henson got personal with some strong words about mental health. “When I go to set and you see me as Cookie and they yell ‘Cut,’ I go home to problems just like everybody else. I’m here to tell you, I have a therapist. I probably need to see her more often,” she said on the morning show.

In August, the Empire actress launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) in honor of her late father. “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support,” Henson said at the time. ”I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are black.”

Through her foundation, the actress is targeting the African American community specifically to eradicate the stigma around mental health issues, hoping to break the silence and encourage the community to be open about their struggles.

“Why aren’t we embarrassed to talk about our thyroid problem but we’re embarrassed to talk about our mental [health]? As far as African Americans, we don’t include that in total health care and that’s a problem,” said Henson.

The three main goals of the BLHF are to provide mental health support in urban schools, increase the number of African American mental health professionals, and reduce the prison recidivism rate.

“We need psychologists in urban schools. These kids are coming to school every day trying to learn and they’re coming from really traumatic situations at home,” Henson said on GMA Day.

By increasing the number of black mental health professionals in the U.S., and having a presence in schools, BLHF is hoping to build trust between the black community and mental health professionals.

“You have to understand the culture,” said Henson. "If you go into a therapist session and you’re looking at the person and you feel like, ‘I can’t say this. What would they think about me if I say this?’ Then we’re not getting any work done.”

Another barrier to mental health support is the perception of weakness. “We’re told to pray [mental illness] away. We’re told that it’s a weakness or we’re demonized because we express these feelings that have been bottled up for so long,” said Henson.

By attacking the stigma with a multi-faceted approach, Henson is hoping to break the silence, and the cycle, of mental illness.

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