I want to do a little exercise that most freshmens in college do on their first day of orientation. “Look at the person to your left; now look at the person to your right (do you remember this at orientation?)…One of you maybe suffering from some form of mental illness. Now, for those who did this exercise in college, you are probably thinking, “hold up, thats not how they completed that statement.” No, they didnt, but it is still a fact.
ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS SUFFER FROM MENTAL ILLNESS.
So this means that as you look to your left, and look to your right, someone could be dealing with Depression, or Bi-Polar Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, or a number of mental illnesses. African-Americans are the least likely population to seek treatment. We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as inapt, weak, and/or inadequate. African-Americans also have a history of being misdiagnosed, so there is mistrust associated with therapy. I know this to be true first hand. I have a son that is struggling with mental/emotional challenges that I ignored and didn’t want to come to terms with and believe. After witnessing my son have mental breakdowns, he ultimately had to be admitted to the Psychiatric Institute Of Washington in Washington D.C. It was heartbreaking, but it was necessary for me to understand the importance of mental health wellness, and breaking the chains and labels in the Black Community.
Joining the crusade to change the negative stigma of mental health in the African American Community is Actress Taraji P. Henson. She along with Executive Director, Tracie Jade Jenkins created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. The foundation is named in honor of Taraji’s father, Boris Lawrence Henson, who suffered with mental health challenges as a result of his tour of duty in the Vietnam War.
The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation aims to provide scholarships to African-American students who seek a career in the mental health field; offer mental health
services and programs to young people in urban schools; and combat recidivism within the prison system.
On March 21, 2019, Bashea (Bah-Shay) Williams, LCSW-C, LICSW had the opportunity to speak with Taraji P. Henson about mental health, her foundation, and even the importance of couples therapy. Be sure to check out the video.