Taraji P. Henson Sounds Off On Mental Health, Details Father’s Battle

Taraji P Henson on Mental Health

Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson is bringing light to mental health stigmas that parents of African-American teens should be more mindful of. The talented actress who has starred as Cookie Lyon on the Fox series ‘Empire‘, which is in the midst of its sixth and final season, recently sat down with the Today Show to discuss a topic she knows very well.

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The topic of mental health hits so close to home for Taraji, because it impacted her personally beginning during her childhood. Her father, Boris who served during Vietnam, began to show signs of PTSD and depression following service. Things were so bad for him that he was often made fun of as Henson touched upon during the interview.

Taraji’s father provided the initiative for her to take action and create awareness for mental health to make sure it is handled properly.

“They would call him ‘crazy’ you know — ‘You know Boris. He crazy.’ And that’s the stigma around it,” the “Empire” actress told NBC special anchor Maria Shriver. “In the African American community, it’s taboo. For so long, it’s been looked upon as a weakness in our community.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Office of Minority Health, in 2017 suicide was the second leading cause of death among black American teens beginning at the age of 15 to the age of 24. Of even greater concern is that since the early 1990s, the rates of suicide have nearly doubled among African American children.

Henson is fighting for funding for mental health in African-American communities including by testifying to congress to help bring awareness and spark change. She has also founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which partners with schools to help African American children who need mental health support.

As for the difference Taraji hopes to continue to make over time; “I want to touch as many children as possible. These babies are suffering,” she said. “And I just feel that is what God sent me here to do. I finally figured it out.”

Photo Credit:  Paras Griffin / Stringer via Getty Images North America

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RJ Davis is a St. Louis native who is a published author of the previously titled Dreams Do Come True: Gifts Expressed Through My Eyes (2010) with other books in the works including the upcoming release of a Graphic Novel titled Silverstone due out in the fall. His background also includes Broadcasting (Prepsports.com) covering various sports such as baseball, basketball, football and track and field; Sports writer for (Fansided.com, Sports Rants, Endzone Score) and volunteers in Television Production for weekly broadcasts for Faith Church – St Louis in St. Louis, MO which can be seen on stations including CBS and ABC. All of that has provided him a plethora of experience including how to work with people, how to multitask, how to adapt to different personalities, etc. He graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an emphasis in Media Studies. He is married to Kendra Davis.