“I’m here to tell you that when they [say] cut and the cameras go away, I go home to real problems just like everybody else,” Taraji P. Henson said in an interview with Variety.
To address the lack of treatment for mental health issues in the African American community, Henson has launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her late father, who suffered from mental health issues as well.
The foundation aims to erase stigma in the Black community, and increase services in schools and prisons, as well as the number of Black providers.
After Henson’s son’s father was murdered in 2003, she had to find treatment for her son, which she said was difficult because non-Black professionals wouldn’t get far because he didn’t trust them. He wouldn’t open up, and he felt guilty.
“We don’t talk about it in our community; it’s taboo, it’s looked upon as a weakness or we’re demonized for expressing rage for traumas we’ve been through,” she said.
Blacks are the least likely to seek mental health treatment, and have less trust due to a history of being misdiagnosed. Less than 6 percent of doctors of psychology are Black.
Henson said, “I have a lot of white friends and … they say, ‘You don’t talk to anybody? Girl, I’m going to see my shrink every Thursday at 3 o’clock.’ So I was like why don’t we do that in our community?”
Understanding the influence they have, and recognizing the need, Henson and other celebrities of color have openly discussed mental health.
Jennifer Lewis, star of “Black-ish,” who was diagnosed 25 years ago with bipolar disorder and advocates for better mental health, said: “We are as sick as our secrets, and it’s time for people to come together, to reach out to those who are hiding in dark rooms, reach out to those who are afraid to take the next step, reach out to those who want to be better and don’t know how to.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who did not get his football dream off the ground, and also experienced the trauma of watching his mother walk into oncoming traffic and saving her, said those experiences changed him.
Of his depression, Johnson said, “I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be okay.'”
Rapper Wale has said of his health, “I was depressed not being where I wanna be in my career when I’ve put the work in. I wasn’t sleeping. I was drinking all day, and I didn’t have anyone to go to. I couldn’t fight it. Those are some of the demons I talk about on the album.”