"It Breaks My Heart": Taraji P. Henson's Emotional Appeal At Black Caucus Sparks National Discussion On Black Mental Health

"It Breaks My Heart": Taraji P. Henson's Emotional Appeal At Black Caucus Sparks National Discussion On Black Mental Health

Henson went on to clarify mental health facilities are avoided by the black community "because we in the African-American community don't deal with mental health issues."

Taraji P. Henson is known for her powerful portrayal of 'Cookie Lyone' in the hit television series 'Empire'. But on June 7, the renowned actress was steeped in a moment of tenderness as she spoke before the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. 

Henson drew from her own experience and narrated a relatable story to the council, highlighting her struggle with dealing with her own personal mental health issues, as well as that of her son's trauma following the tragic murder of his father in Washington. After the murder of her ex in 2004, Henson recalled struggling to find help for her son. 



 

"When he was becoming a young man, not having his important male figures to look up to, to call upon, questions about becoming a young African-American male in America or how does that work? What do I need to do? We didn’t have it … It was like looking for a unicorn," she flatly explained. 



 

Henson went on to clarify that even though there are psychiatrists available to deal with depression and trauma, mental health facilities are avoided by the black community "because we in the African-American community don't deal with mental health issues."



 

The actress's concern about mental health reflects strongly in statistics, which state that black children between the ages of 5-12 were twice more susceptible to suicide than compared to their white cohorts. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Nationwide Children's Hospital also found that the suicide rate for older black children was 50 percent lower than in white children. 



 

Henson also said that the inability for a Black person to trust their mental health caregiver also adds to the stigma that comes with dealing with trauma. Taking from her experience of being a special education teacher, the actress highlighted that many children normalize various types of trauma, and that adds to their mental strain. "It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death," she said, fighting back tears.



 

"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 at school," Henson added. "I'm here using my celebrity status, using my voice, to put a face to this, Because I also suffer from depression and anxiety."



 

Friday marked the second hearing on the topic of black youth mental health. Currently, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are on a nation-wide tour to raise awareness for their cause. 



 

Watch her appeal video here:



 

Responsible reporting on suicide and the inclusion of stories of hope and resilience can prevent more suicides. If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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