World Mental Health Day on Wednesday (Oct. 10) presents another opportunity to address the challenges, stigmas and need for help within the Black community in regards to depression and mental illness. The day also invites people to follow the examples of several African Americans who are working on mental health awareness and advocacy.
Recently, Taraji P. Henson launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF), a nonprofit in honor of her late father who suffered from mental health issues. There has to be more conversations about mental health, Henson said.
“It’s taboo in the African-American community. It just is; I don’t know why. I don’t know why we put that on us to be so strong and heroic,” said the “Empire” star, who created a campaign to raise money for the nonprofit. “My dad was a Vietnam vet. Finally, he was able to get the help he needed. He was troubled and no one knew what to do.”
Another TV star, Kofi Siriboe, 24, who stars on OWN’s “Queen Sugar,” directed, produced and released a new short film about a Black man’s experience with “emotional distress.” The film, titled “JUMP,” explores the man’s emotional journey after the tragic loss of a loved one. Siriboe created the film after losing a mentor who committed suicide.
“If we don’t admit what’s going on to ourselves, we’re gonna keep hurting in silence, which is killing us twice as much as our Caucasian counterparts,” Siriobe said. “No one is gonna talk about it because it’s taboo. That’s what I wanna end.”
Additionally, Chance The Rapper, who real name is Chancelor Bennett, donated $1 million to mental health services in Chicago, he announced on Thursday (Oct. 4). Several mental health providers in Cook County will each get $100,000 in grants as part of the plan.
These Black celebrities, as well as mental health advocates, are seemingly responding to the alarming statistics about emotional distress among African Americans. Black adults over 18 years of age are “10% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic whites,” according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Mental Health. The number of kids who take their own lives is also alarming: Black children ages 5 to 12 commit suicide at a rate twice that of their white counterparts.
In addition to the disparities, Black people face inadequate access to mental and behavioral health care, the American Psychological Association reported. Foundations, donations and creative works help to get the word out about mental health, clearing a way for African Americans to get needed help and resources.