Taraji P. Henson has been a driving force in shedding light on the mental health crisis in the black community. The Empire star testified on Capitol Hill Friday (June 7), during the Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce forum on suicide among black youth, and mental health.
In her opening remarks, Henson stated that she came to Capital Hill out of “necessity.” She went on to open up about the trauma experienced from losing her father, Boris Lawrence Henson, in 2006, and the father of her son, who was murdered in her hometown of Washington D.C., two years earlier.
“We, in the African-American community, we don’t deal with mental health issues. We don’t even talk about it. We’ve been taught to pray our problems away,” said Henson. “We’ve been demonized for coming out and saying we have [mental health] issues and trust issues. I need the person sitting opposite from me, when I go seek [mental] help, to be culturally competent. If you’re not culturally competent how can I trust you with my deepest secrets and my vulnerability?”
Henson also shared a story of working as a substitute teacher for what she thought was a class of special needs students at a school in Los Angeles. “When I got there I was in a room full of black young males labeled ‘special ed.’ None of them were [disabled]. As I started talking to the young men I found out that they were going home to no parents.”
“That sat with me and it bothers me because I’m raising a young black man,” Henson added.
Last year, the Oscar-nominated actress launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation aimed at eradicating the stigma behind mental illness.
Following her Congressional testimony, Henson went live on Instagram for a discussion on mental health awareness, trauma, grieving, depression, and anxiety within the black community. “This conversation is an inclusive one for all,” she explained. “When we learn from each other that’s when we can create real change. It’s time to stop hurting and start healing.”
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Please join me!! I will be going live at 7pm #Instagram TONIGHT where I will be discussing #MentalHealthAwareness #Trauma #Grieving #Depression #Anxiety happening within the African American community. This conversation is an inclusive one for all. When we learn from each other that’s when we can create real change. It’s time to stop hurting and start healing… #blhf #CanWeTalk? #BenefitDinnerTonight
Check below for video of Henson on Capitol Hill.
WATCH: @TherealTaraji opening statement before @OfficialCBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and #MentalHealth: “We, in the African American community, we don’t deal with mental health issues. We don’t even talk about it. We’ve been taught to pray our problems away.” pic.twitter.com/KBdA7d1ofT
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 7, 2019