The “Empire” star launched the foundation in honor of her late father who battled mental health issues.
Actress Taraji P. Henson has launched a foundation to promote mental health support for the African American community, in honor of her late father Boris Lawrence Henson, who she said struggled with mental health issues.
According to its official website, the three main goals of the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) are to provide mental health support in urban schools, increase the number of African American therapists, and to reduce the prison recidivism rate.
Through her foundation, Henson is targeting the African American community specifically to eradicate the stigma around mental health issues, hoping to break the silence and encourage the community to be open about their struggles.
“African Americans have regarded such communication as a sign of weakness and our vision is to change that perception,” said Tracie Jenkins, executive director of BLHF, according to People.
“One in five Americans suffer from mental illness. African Americans are the least likely population to seek treatment,” according to the BLHF website. “We are taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as inapt, weak, and/or inadequate.”
Henson launched the foundation in honor of her father, Boris Lawrence Henson, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 58 after battling liver cancer.
“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,” said the Empire actress.
“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.”
The foundation will provide scholarships for African American students majoring in mental health, and work with urban school districts to support mental health therapists, social workers and counselors for African American children in need.
“African American youth in this country are exposed to trauma daily. Issues like poverty, mass incarceration and violence plague the lives of many of our children, leaving them scarred and anxious,” according to the BLHF website. “Yet many of the children facing these problems rarely get the therapeutic help they need, carrying the effects of these issues into adulthood.”
The website continues, “Instead of stigmatizing mental health issues, we must normalize the issue. We must learn to equate the importance of emotional health with the importance of physical health. Needing help is not a shame, the shame is in the inability and fear to do so.”