Taraji P. Henson suffers from anxiety and depression. She’s now having candid conversations regarding Black women and mental health. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health disorders in the nation. For Black women, anxiety and depression symptoms are typically more intense than their white counterparts.
The Empire actress is one of five women featured in Variety Magazine’s Power of Women New York issue, released this past Tuesday. Henson, in the feature, opened up about her struggles, past and present, with anxiety and depression.
“[Fame] was fun at first, but the older I get, the more private I want to be,” Henson told Variety. “I think there’s a misconception with people in the limelight that we have it all together, and because we have money now and are living out our dreams, everything is fine. That’s not the case. When they yell ‘Cut’ and ‘That’s a wrap,’ I go home to very serious problems. I’m still a real human.”
Henson has also attributed her fame and lack of privacy to triggering her depression and anxiety.
“I suffer from depression,” Henson says. “My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new.”
Black women, specifically, have a more difficult time dealing with mental health issues because of how they are viewed in the United States. There’s the ‘Strong Black Woman’, the ‘Angry Black Woman’, and the ‘Jezebel’ tropes which impact the treatment, or lack thereof, to which Black women have access. In particular, Black women usually suffer from “high-functioning depression” because people often believe that nothing is wrong with them due to their completion of daily activities.
Henson stated: “I have to be conscious about everything. Everything. Every move I make and everything that comes out of my mouth. I have to go over it because that’s not living.”
She also shared that she regularly sees a therapist to help her through her episodes.
“I have a therapist that I speak to. That’s the only way I can get through it. You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises,” she said. “So that when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that’ll get you off that ledge and past your weakest moments.”
She also stressed the difficulty she had finding a therapist who worked for her.
“Going and talking to all these different therapists, that’s a craft. You’ve got to keep going until you find the right one. It’s like a relationship. I’ve got to feel comfortable because that’s the only way I’m going to keep coming back to you. To keep dealing with this ugly stuff, I have to feel totally safe,” she elaborated.
It is imperative that Black women seek help even before they get to the point of losing control.
In 2018, Taraji opened the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation – named after her late father. The foundation aims to provide mental health support and raise awareness around mental health issues particularly in the African-American community.
It should not be taken for granted that depression and other mental health issues are not disabilities. Although we can easily identify people who suffer from physical disabilities, sufferers of non-physical disabilities deserve the same amount of respect, care and consideration as their counterparts.
And as a person who has lived with major clinical depression for almost three years, I can tell you representation is paramount.