Taraji P. Henson Gets Serious About Mental Health: ‘I Hate to Know People Are Suffering’
“Extra” caught up with “Empire” star and mental health advocate Taraji P. Henson, right after her emotional testimony to Congress regarding the need for more mental health resources for African Americans.
The normally upbeat and bubbly star got serious about the cause, and her own struggles with depression, saying, “It's tough when you are in a dark place. Thank God I had really incredible people around me… since I've seen a therapist, it helps me tremendously.”
Henson opened up about her own life and dealing with pain, saying, “I have a son that I've been raising by myself. His father was murdered here in Washington, D.C. My father died two years later. That was very traumatic for us, and when it was time to start looking for someone that we felt safe talking to, it was like searching for a unicorn, a purple one, so I felt compelled to jump into action.”
She is pushing for mental health counselors in the African-American community, explaining, “People are afraid to be vulnerable because in our community it's looked upon as being a weakness.” Speaking about her testimony, she said, “Hopefully, I lit some fires and I've gotten people's awareness up about this crisis in the African-American community and mental health issues.”
Taraji created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her late father who fought mental illness when he came home from the Vietnam War. “It's easy to sit around and complain, but you have to be the change you want to see,” she said, adding, “I just hate to know people are suffering in silence when you really don't have to.”
The star said advocating for mental health has given her a greater purpose. “This is a passion for me… I've always been told to find my purpose in life, and I thought it was acting… But acting led me here. Acting gave me the platform and the mic to say something and to be a difference, so I feel this is my purpose.”