“I hope that one day we can all be free to talk about mental health and be okay with seeking help,” Henson said.
Academy Award winner Taraji P Henson has become a fierce mental health advocate in recent years. Since launching the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father who lived with mental illness, the Empire actress has shared her personal story in an effort to get people talking about mental health and hopefully inspiring members of the Black community to reach out for help.
In an interview with Self magazine, the recently engaged actress got candid about mental health issues, having to be strong in the midst of helplessness and finding a good therapist with the help of a friend.
“I hope that one day we can all be free to talk about mental health and be okay with seeking help,” she said.“There are some times where I feel absolutely helpless. That’s human. Everybody feels like that. Just because I’m a black woman, don’t put that strong-superhero thing on me.”
Henson recognized that with a dayjob that consists of sometimes channeling negative emotions and invoking trauma, self-care is paramount so she found a productive way to recenter herself.
Art As Therapy
“Art is therapeutic for me,” she shared. “A lot of times when I have to reach these emotional places, I have to use things in my life, and a lot of times I’ve healed myself.”
While art therapy has helped her deal with things, there were still other areas where Henson felt she had an opportunity to grow so she opted to enter talk therapy.
“I had aligned all my chakras, and I still wanted to headbutt a bitch,” she joked. “The therapy came into play out of necessity. It was [a] time where I was like, ‘Oh, I’m just not feeling like myself anymore,’ and my son was going through his issues with becoming a young black male in America with no dad and no grandad.”
In 2003, Henson’s son’s father was murdered and three years later her own father passed away.
“It was like, ‘Okay, I’m not a professional. We both need help,’” she said.
So Henson went in search of a therapist but like many, finding the right therapist for her needs was not as easy as she had hoped. But it would be her Empire co-star, Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe who would recommend the perfect therapist for Henson – one that just so happened to be her own.
Self reached out to Sidibe about her decision to recommend and share her therapist with her co-star and friend.
“It was extremely important for me to find a therapist who is a black woman, just because black women live in a different world than everyone else,” Sidibe wrote. “Our problems, daily interactions, and expectations are different than most other people, so I wanted a therapist who I could cut through the societal foundation of who I am with, so that we could get to my specific issues. There’s a shorthand between us. We speak the same language because we’re from the same world.”
For Henson, finding care for herself was necessary but so is helping others in the community access help as well, something she is able to do with her foundation.
“I think my mental health foundation picks up where my art leaves off,” Henson explained. “We have to deal with these traumatic situations [children experience], and these teachers and therapists and social workers need to be trained in cultural competency to be able to pinpoint [when a] child is having an issue that’s deeper than just wanting to be bad in class.”