Taraji P. Henson Talks Mental Health, Depression, and Anxiety

WATCH: Taraji P. Henson Gets Emotional While Discussing Battles With Depression and Anxiety at Congressional Mental Health Hearing

Award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson appeared before a congressional hearing on June 7 to share her concerns about mental health, particularly as it affects African American youth. Henson discussed her own mental health battles against depression and anxiety and became visibly emotional while doing so.

“I’m here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety,” she shared. “If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

Henson, who established the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, spoke openly about how “we in the African American community – we don’t deal with mental health issues.” Her appearance followed the launch of the Congressional Black Caucus’ task force on mental health issues facing black teenagers. The Caucus has held a series of hearings since launching the task force in April about mental health stigma and suicides among black youth.

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Taraji P. Henson on Mental Health on Micro and Macro Levels

Henson talked about how the use of social media, the normalization of gun violence, and a lack of mental health resources in schools negatively affects black teens’ mental health. She asked the Caucus to consider integrating mental health education into schools. “If we can teach children about sex education and physical education, why not mental?” she asked.

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???????????????????????????????????? #Repost @iamjessiemiles ・・・ @tarajiphenson got emotional while speaking in front of congress on mental health! @blhensonfoundation Photos: @gettyimages⠀ Taraji P. Henson got emotional as she testified before Congress on Friday about the need for mental health counselors and education, especially in the black community, in wake of a rise in suicides of young people. The Empire star, who has an adult son, also talked about her own battle with depression and anxiety, which she has been open about, as she spoke before the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. "I really don't know how to fix this problem, I just know that the suicide rate is rising," she said. "I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger." A study published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year showed that between 2007 and 2015, annual ER visits relating to suicide by people aged 5 to 18 rose from 2.2 percent to 3.5 percent, and from 580,000 to 1.2 million. "It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death," Henson said. "I just…I'm sorry. That one is tough for me. So I'm here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you're supposed to feel safe in school." "I'm here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this because I also suffer from depression and anxiety," she continued. "And if you're a human living in today's world, I don't know how you're not suffering in any way, I mean if you turn on the news, that's PTSD right there. We need each other. This is me reaching across the table, trying to lend a helping hand in the best way I can. We have to save the children." •

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The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is named in honor of Henson’s father, a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD and manic depression. “I feel like I really found my purpose,” she shared with People. “It’s hard, but he knew it and he was able to get the help that he needed.”

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The Foundation will be hosting a conference in Washington about the stigma of mental illness in the African-American community starting this Friday. The proceeds from the event will go towards therapy for African-Americans who cannot afford it.

Thank you for speaking out, Taraji P. Henson! What do you think of her comments on mental health, depression, anxiety, and more? Sound off in the comments!

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