Taraji P. Henson is launching a new project as part of her ongoing support and promotion of mental health awareness.
Henson will be hosting a new Facebook Watch series, “Peace of Mind with Taraji” alongside childhood friend Tracie Jade Jenkins. The biweekly show, which premieres Dec. 14, will feature the two women interviewing a diverse roster of guests who will all discuss issues pertaining to mental health, and how it is handled in the Black community.
Henson and Jenkins dealt with their own mental health struggles growing up, which greatly informed their ideas about how mental health needs to be addressed.
“I’ve watched her suffer from anxiety since we were young,” Henson told USA Today. “And then to grow myself and then find out I’m suffering from anxiety and depression – we had these deep conversations, we understood that there was a need in the community, or lack thereof, (for) knowledge about mental health.”
With their new show, they have expressed a desire to make the idea of getting help more acceptable and accessible to others. “What we get to do is take the community inside of an actual therapy session, so it doesn’t feel so scary,” she said.
Jenkins said that they want people to be inspired to understand their own condition and be inspired to take action and get treatment. “Hopefully, we’re helping folk to identify maybe some of the symptoms that they’re having, or family members are having, and apply that in a therapy session, go to a therapist, and actually work those challenges out.”
Henson and Jade said many of the beliefs about mental health held in the Black community are erroneous and harmful.
“There’s this notion that you can push through, you can work it out on your own, you can be strong, you can easily pray it away,” said Henson.
Jenkins added, “We stay away from having these vulnerable conversations with people because what are you going to do with that information?”
“We wanted to shine a light on the other side of that and say, there are some culturally competent therapists out there, people who look like you and me, or those who at least understand the context of the way that we live, that can help us work through our problems.”
The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, Henson’s brainchild, is the force behind this new series. The nonprofit is named after her father, who grappled with his own mental health. The foundation seeks to “eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the African-American community,” and “provide support and bring awareness to mental health issues that plague our community” according to its official website. With the onset of the pandemic and its aftermath, more people have reached out to the organization for help.
Jenkins, who serves as executive director of the foundation said, “We had no idea when we started this foundation back in 2018 that we were being born to serve this moment.”
Henson is eager to utilize the show to aid others in their mental health journeys.”This is something I’m very passionate about. … Acting is great. And I love it. But I feel like that was the path to get me here,” she said.
Episodes airing on Mondays will feature personal stories from celebrities and non-celebrities concerning their own journeys with mental health.
“Guests include Gabrielle Union, who will talk about her experiences with PTSD; Tamar Braxton, who will discuss the pressure of being a strong Black woman and not seeking help, and Mary J. Blige, who will reflect on holiday despair and isolation,” according to USA Today.
Wednesday episodes will introduce licensed therapists to tackle the topics from Monday’s guests and speak on their own experiences.