Actress Taraji P. Henson has evolved into a fierce advocate for mental health awareness. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Empire star is furthering her advocacy efforts by ensuring that people within the Black community who are battling with mental illnesses have access to free resources, the Hollywood Reporter reported.
Through her nonprofit organization—the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation—Henson launched an initiative dubbed the COVID-19 Free Virtual Therapy Campaign. The campaign was created to raise funds that will cover expenses related to mental health services for individuals who have been significantly impacted by the public health crisis. Aware of the fact that the pandemic can lead to the rise in depression, anxiety, fear and other forms of emotional and psychological trauma, Henson wanted to eliminate the socio-economic barriers surrounding seeking help. The foundation will align individuals with culturally competent therapists and cover the costs for up to five virtual therapy sessions.
“Anxiety and stress builds up quickly with so many changes every day,” she said in an Instagram video. “If you’re anything like me you need someone to lean on, to talk to, to help manage your anxiety. I also know it’s not easy for everyone to just pick up the phone and call a therapist because who’s going to pay for it? This campaign is for underserved communities experiencing life-changing events related to or triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the African American community, we’ve been taught to tough it out; hide our suffering. This is something none of us have ever experienced and no one should suffer in silence.” The services—which are on a first-come, first-serve basis until all the funds are used—will be available on April 15.
BLHF Executive Director Tracie Jade Jenkins believes the COVID-19 Free Virtual Therapy Campaign will be instrumental in removing the stigma around seeking help for mental illness.
Initiatives like the one being led by Henson’s foundation are needed. According to the ACLU, African Americans are disproportionately dying from COVID-19.