Taraji P. Henson Tears Up Describing Mental Health in the Black Community as a 'National Crisis'

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Taraji P. Henson has been doing the work, the work to end the stigma surrounding mental illness in the black community. The urgency of the issue brought her to tears while she was being honored for her efforts at Variety magazine’s Power of Women New York lunch.


In September, Henson launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named for her late father, who battled mental health challenges after his return home from the Vietnam War.

Speaking at Friday’s luncheon after being introduced by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi, Henson choked up as she shared a tragic statistic:

“The number of black children ages 5-12 who have died by suicide has doubled since the 1990s,” she said, according to Variety. “This is a national crisis.”

“Our vision is to eradicate the stigma around mental health in the black community by breaking the silence and breaking a cycle of shame. We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as weak, or inadequate,” Henson, star of TV’s Empire, said.

Saying that she wants to “ensure that we have enough soldiers to fight the battle,” the Henson Foundation, among other things, raises money and advocates for greater numbers of “culturally competent” therapists and psychiatrists in black communities, as she said in an interview aired Saturday with Van Jones of CNN.


I know I don’t feel safe disclosing the extent of my mental illness as far as employment goes. I’m strong enough to keep functioning and getting the proper treatment, but just doing that alone, I don’t have the energy to do anything else. I work to keep my insurance and pay my bills. Just because I can doesn’t mean I’m not suffering a disability which saps everything else. Surviving is looking less attractive by the day.

And the moment you admit that to something like a suicide hotline, they don’t leave you alone. Your privacy is gone. Your rights are on the edge of being taken away from you

What am I really supposed to do?