On Thursday Empire actress Taraji P. Henson announced the launch of a 2-day mental health summit in her hometown of Washington, D.C., to call attention to the importance of mental health awareness in the Black community.
The summit will be thrown in conjunction with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named in honor of Henson’s father who suffered from bouts of depression due to his time served in the Vietnam War.
It is a subject that the actress knows firsthand. Henson has also battled her own personal demons. She began the foundation in 2018 after realizing the difficulty in accessing mental health care providers.
Due to outlining factors including racism, income inequality and lack of access to efficient health care, Black communities and communities of color are oftentimes overlooked in the mental health conversation.
Attendees will have the chance to talk about mental illness and will also gain information regarding policy making and, most importantly, access to treatment.
“Mental illness is a huge issue in the black community. The suicide rate of young people has doubled in the last 15 years, this is a national crisis,” said Henson, 48. “We are working to normalizing the conversation in our communities at a younger age to eradicate the stigma. We have to start somewhere — and I believe openly talking about it is a good place to start.”
During the summit a special section will be dedicated to inner city youth and will provide school leaders with resources and treatment services.
The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Altha J. Stewart, the first African-American and first woman to be named President of the American Psychiatric Association.
Henson, along with her foundation officers, hope to raise over $500,000 in order to offer free sessions for first-time goers.
We applaud Taraji’s efforts to take on this very important public health issue!