Taraji P. Henson Cries While Discussing Mental Health in the Black Community: ‘This Is a National Crisis’

Taraji P. Henson shed light on the history and stigma of mental health in the black community at Variety’s Power of Women NY presented by Lifetime. 

Henson received the honor on Friday for her work with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. “Our vision is to eradicate the stigma around mental health in the black community by breaking the silence and breaking a cycle of shame. We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as weak, or inadequate,” said Henson. Breaking down in tears, she called the state of mental health for black people a “national crisis.”

“My dad is one of the reasons I started this foundation, and my son, and my neighbor, and my friends, my community, our children is why I keep going,” she said. The actress named the foundation after her father, who experienced mental illness after returning from his tour of duty in Vietnam.

She continued, “The history of mental illness for black people in America stretches all the way back 400 years, 15 million people, and an ocean that holds the stories.”

Henson reflected on the roles in her career where she has depicted the experiences of black women during Jim Crow segregation. She referenced Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who helped launch the first man in space, and Catana Starks, the first black woman to coach a college men’s golf team. Finally, she brought up Ann Atwater, an advocate for school desegregation. Henson plays Atwater in the film “Best of Enemies” which was released Friday. The actress said of each of the women she’s played, “She kept going.” Henson said, “Four hundred years running through the veins. And we keep going.”

“My biggest dream is to see little black and brown people play in the sun, splash in the ocean, for generations to come, and know that the power of women will always be waiting at the shores to receive them. Thank you,” Henson concluded. 

More TV

  • THE BLACKLIST -- "Cornelius Ruck (#155)"

    'The Blacklist' Bosses on 'Clue' Inspiration for Standalone Whodunnit Episode

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Cornelius Ruck (No. 155),” the 12th episode of “The Blacklist” Season . Viewers that needed a bit of a respite from the real world on Friday night probably embraced the light-hearted nature of “The Blacklist’s” “Cornelius Ruck” episode, a concluding installment to the previous week’s [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    DGA, SAG-AFTRA, WGA Scramble to Keep Residuals Flowing During Coronavirus Pandemic

    Hollywood’s creative guilds have been working overtime to keep residual checks going out to members during the coronavirus crisis. Even though most of the staff members of the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America West have been working remotely, the guilds have stepped up efforts to maintain the flow of [...]

  • Steven Universe Series Finale

    The Radical Empathy of 'Steven Universe' (Column)

    The last epic battle of “Steven Universe” isn’t one between friends and foes, but between Steven Universe and himself. After six years and nearly 200 episodes, both the show and character took the time to ask themselves some crucial, existential questions: What happens to a hero after they’ve already saved the day? Who is Steven [...]

  • A view of the stage at

    Television Academy's Emmy Calendar Shift Lauded by Networks, Studios and Streamers

    The Television Academy’s decision to push back this year’s Emmy Awards voting calendar, and eliminate officially sanctioned campaign events, was applauded on Friday by many network, streamer and studio execs — several of whom had been asking the org to do such a thing. “People are happy they acknowledged the situation,” one network exec said [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content