Golden Award winning Actress Tarij P. Henson brings the community together to help communicate mental illness and related issues in Washington, DC. The actress and founder of the Boris Lawrence Henson foundation,
was speaking on Capitol hill to house representatives about the stigma around mental health care in the African-American community. On Friday, the actress urged members of the Black Caucus to join her in talking about mental illness – and getting people the help they need. “I’m only one voice.
“For generations, we’ve been told it’s a weakness, to pray our problems away – and that’s just not gonna cut it,” Taraji P. Henson tells PEOPLE MAGAZINE.
“If we can teach children about sex education and physical education, why not mental?” she says. “That’s where we start attacking this issue: with the children.”
Henson argues that if mental healthcare becomes a part of the school curriculum, then parents will be forced to talk about mental health care with their kids. “You’ve got to help me with my homework,” she says.
The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 2018 by Taraji P. Henson and led by Executive Director, Tracie Jade Jenkins. The foundation is named in honor of Ms. Henson’s father, Boris Lawrence Henson, who suffered with mental health challenges as a result of his tour of duty in the Vietnam War.
She spoke on a wide range of matters affecting young children and teenagers in the black community — from the pervasive effects of social media, to the normalization of gun violence, to the lack of mental health education in American school systems. Recalling her earlier days, before becoming a Oscar Nominated actress and three time BET Awards, 2016 Golden Globe Award winner, Ms. Henson was a substitute teach and chooses to teach students with learning disabilities. After graduation, she started to teach students that were labeled by the school systems having learning disabilities.
Ms. Henson lamented that to her discovery, not only were these students incorrectly classified by the school system, but were left in a disadvantage state, which lead her students, mostly teenage black males, to believe that they actually had a learning disabilities and could not learn what she was assigned to teach them, of which they stated — ‘I’m special ed, Ms. Henson, I can’t learn that,’” she said.
“We in the African American community — we don’t deal with mental health issues,” said Henson. “We don’t even talk about it.” Ms. Henson added, "We were taught to pray our problems away, to just get over it."
Resonating points Ms. Henson made regarding the current but long standing acceptance of young people not allowed and raised to believe that talking about the pain and the traumatic experience, not only damage these youth in the black community, but it ultimately creates generations of distrust and the inability to communicate, causing overall trauma and long term damage to the black communities and the united states, calling it a "national crisis".
Henson’s foundation is hosting a conference on the stigma of mental illness in the African American community in Washington starting Friday and going through the weekend. The proceeds will help fund therapy for African Americans who otherwise can’t afford it.
That Friday night The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation’s Can We Talk? Conference and Benefit Dinner, held at the Newseum, on the national mall, in Washington, DC. The star studded night bought many of DC's elite in government, showbiz and healthcare together to raise money, network and echo Ms. Henson's matching orders that this problem in the black community must stop. The nights event was hosted by hosted Talk show host and Radio personality Guy Lambert, along with media personality and co-host Madelyne Woods. Among those in attendance was Traci Braxton from the hit cable network WE The Braxton's Family values, Media personality, awarding winning author and co-host of, The Breakfast Club, seen on Revolt TV network and radio personalty on Power 105.1 Charlamagne Tha God.
“We need each other. This is me reaching across the table, trying to lend a helping hand in the best way I can,” Henson said at the hearing. “We have to save our children.”
To learn more about The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation,
visit their website at: https://borislhensonfoundation.org/
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside the U.S., the International Association for Suicide Prevention can provide you with a database of resources.