Actress Taraji P. Henson is using her platform as an avenue to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in the African-American community. The Empire star recently announced the launch of a non-profit organization that is designed to provide resources for individuals battling with mental illness, the Los Angeles Sentinel reported.
Henson’s inspiration for the organization—dubbed the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation—was pulled from her personal experiences, the news outlet writes. While coming of age she witnessed her father suffer from psychological trauma after he returned home from the Vietnam War.
“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,” Henson said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support. I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African-Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are Black.”
BLHF will align African-Americans who are dealing with mental health issues with therapists and counselors who are culturally sensitive. The organization also aims to bring mental health services to urban public schools. Aside from providing support for individuals in need, BLHF wants to diversify the field of mental health by providing scholarships for Black students who want to pursue careers in this space. Tracie Jenkins, Executive Director, BLHF, hopes that the organization empowers individuals to “break the silence by speaking out and encouraging others to share their challenges with mental illness.”
Several efforts have been made to change the narrative surrounding mental health in the Black community. Public health advocate Kevin Dedner launched a digital platform dubbed Henry Health to empower Black men to take charge of their mental health.