Taraji P. Henson, the well-known star of the hit series “Empire” knows all too well about the stigma surrounding mental health in African-American communities and its effect on families. Henson is on a mission to eradicate the stigma through the creation of a foundation dedicated to the cause.
The actress just launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father who himself battled through mental health issues. The organization will provide scholarships to African-American students majoring in mental health, offer mental health services to youth in urban schools and work to lower the recidivism rates of African-American men and women.
“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.
Henson’s father who succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 58 in 2006 fought in the Vietnam war from which he returned mentally scared like so many veterans. Like so many Black men and veterans, Henson’s father received little to no physical and emotional support to help him cope with his mental issues.
Henson feels that creating this foundation is her way of offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are black.
Funds raised for the foundation will help provide resources to increase mental health support in urban schools. BLHF will also partner with school districts help to provide mental health therapists, social workers and counselors to African-American children in need and other nonprofit organizations that offer mental health wellness programs as well.
Mental illness in the Black community continues to be a serious problem and it is through the charitable work of people like Taraji P. Henson that we can take steps to address it more effectively.