Taraji P. Henson spent her day on Capitol Hill Friday speaking out on the stigma around mental health. Henson launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation last year in a bid to eradicate the stigma around mental health. Afterwards, she opened up to People about her own family’s struggles with mental health, and discussed why she thinks people need to be more open about their issues, and seek out help as soon as there’s an issue.
Henson later discussed her motivation for speaking out, telling People: “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.”
Henson adds, “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.”
On Friday, she urged members of the Black Caucus to join her in speaking out. She also explained the background of her own family’s struggle with mental health. “I feel like I’ve really found my purpose,” Henson says, who named her organization to honor her father, a Vietnam veteran who suffered from both PTSD and manic depression. “It’s hard,” she says. “But he knew it and he was able to get the help that he needed.”
She says she faced her own struggles after first losing her son’s father William Lamar Johnson to murder in D.C., then losing her own father in 2005. While she sought help, she found it difficult to find a therapist she could relate to. “It was like looking for a purple unicorn with a 24-carat-gold-horn. I say that jokingly, but it’s serious,” she shares. “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.”
These days, she says she and her fiancé Kelvin Hayden sometimes even meet with her therapist together. “I want people to know it’s okay,” she says. “I don’t know what human is not suffering from some sort of anxiety or depression.”