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Taraji P. Henson Sheds Light On Her Work To Destigmatize Mental Health Within The Black Community

Since 2018, actress Taraji P. Henson has used her platform to advocate for mental health within the Black community. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the co-founder of the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) spoke to Verywell Mind about her work to destigmatize mental health in the Black community.


For Henson, her journey with mental health hasn’t been an easy one to share publically, however,The Color Purplestar says she hopes her speaking out about her experience will empower others to share their stories and receive support.

“I broke my silence to free someone else to share their story and ultimately get the support they need. It wasn’t easy, especially when you’re in the public space, but it was worth it,” she reflects. “When I get DMs on social media from people who have actually received the free therapy and resources my foundation offers, it fills my heart more than anything I’ve done as an artist.”

Henson’s foundation, Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF), named after her grandfather, is dedicated to providing culturally competent therapy referrals and wellness resources while, “chipping away at that mistrust by offering culturally relevant, barrier-free services in traditional trusted spaces like barbershops, HBCU campuses, and with providers and practitioners who practice cultural humility,” she says.

According to a study by the National Mental Health Association, 63% of Black individuals perceive a mental health issue as indicative of personal “weakness” — a stigma that can consequently, lead to individuals feeling ashamed of their mental health condition and fear discrimination based on it.

With this in mind, the award-winning actress stresses that strength can be found in vulnerability; and advocates for breaking the cycle of suffering through transparency.

“Cultural humility in caring for BIPOC communities. We all show up in the world with cultural norms and historical contexts that are often missed,” she says. “What services may work for one group can actually be detrimental to another at that goes even deeper into layers of experiences and zip codes. We are not a monolith.”

She continues, “Vulnerability is your strength, not a weakness. We have to break the cycle of suffering so that we can live healthy whole lives without being shackled to our trauma. There are free services out here whether it’s therapy or yoga or African dance that can help you at least start your journey to healing. Joy is our birthright and you deserve that.”

Despite the ongoing challenges in advancing mental health efforts for marginalized communities, Henson maintains her motivation through the significant progress achieved over time.

“We still have a lot of work to do, especially given the cuts in funding to DEI initiatives. The progress we’ve made in such a short period of time, keeps me fighting for us.”

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Featured image by Greg Doherty/WireImage

 

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