Taraji P. Henson’s new foundation aims to help break the stigma surrounding mental health struggles in the Black community.
The “Empire” actress founded the non-profit organization this year and named it the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father, who battled mental health woes himself.
In a letter posted on the foundation’s website, Henson wrote, “this means everything to me” of the organization she says is “God’s purpose” for her.
“I named the organization after my father because of his complete and unconditional love for me; his unabashed, unashamed ability to tell the truth, even if it hurt; and his strength to push through his own battles with mental health issues,” she continued. “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support. I stand in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they’re Black.”
There are several goals that the foundation hopes to achieve: provide mental health support in Black schools, reduce the recidivism rate and increase the number of Black therapists. The latter is particularly important as an APA report revealed that of the 2,837 psychology doctorates American citizens earned in 2008, just 5.8 percent were obtained by Black people. Plus, one in five Americans suffers from mental illness and Black people are least likely to get help.
“We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as inept, weak, and/or inadequate,” the BLHF’s about page reads. “African-Americans also have a history of being misdiagnosed, so there is mistrust associated with therapy.”
Henson is set to host a launch event for the foundation on Sept. 22. Taraji’s Boutique of Hope is a three-hour event that will allow guests to shop in the actresses closet and choose from various designer duds at a home in Beverly Hills, Calif. There, guests will get early access to an online auction where they can bid on items donated by Henson’s celebrity pals.
Proceeds from the event will go toward advocating for increasing in-school resources for mental health support.