Taraji P. Henson recently opened up to Congress about mental health in the Black community among young people and became emotional.
On Friday she spoke to the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, where she talked about her own battle with depression, as well as her son being traumatized by his father’s murder.
Henson said her ex was killed in Washington in 2004, and she had trouble finding the necessary help for her son afterward.
“When he was becoming a young man, not having his important male figures to look up to, to call upon, questions about becoming a young African-American male in America or how does that work? What do I need to do? We didn’t have it … It was like looking for a unicorn,” Henson explained.
The “Empire” actress also said psychiatrists who deal with mental health in the Black community aren’t easily accessible “Because we in the African-American community don’t deal with mental health issues.”
“We’ve been taught to pray our problems away,” she added. “We’ve been demonized for coming out saying we have issues and we have trust issues.”
Henson also said that when she sits in front of a mental health professional for her own problems, she wants that person to be “culturally competent.”
Plus, she pointed to several factors that contribute to depression and suicide among Black youth, which she drew from her experience as a special education teacher before becoming an actress.
The Washington native said that her students normalized shootouts, as well as other types of traumas, and fought back tears as she continued.
“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death,” she stated. “So I’m here to appeal to you because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe at school.”
“I’m here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this,” she added. “Because I also suffer from depression and anxiety.”
In 2018 Henson started the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her father, to help end the stigma that surrounds mental health issues in the Black community.
At the time, she spoke about her late father’s own battle with mental illness, which she related to his time fighting in the Vietnam War and not having the proper assistance when he came home.