Golden Globe-winning actor, writer, and producer Taraji P. Henson brings mental health awareness to social media with her new talk show, Peace of Mind with Taraji, which airs new episodes on Facebook Watch on Mondays and Wednesdays. With her best friend Tracie Jade as cohost, Taraji speaks with celebrities, mental health experts and regular people. The series premier aired on Tuesday, December 14 and featured Gabrielle Union who discussed having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being sexually assaulted. The show seeks to prompt serious conversations about mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
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“Mental health issues are huge in communities of color,” Henson told Healthline in a 2018 interview. “We experience trauma on a daily basis, in the media, in our neighborhoods, schools, the prison system, or simply walking down the street, you name it.” Henson’s father, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from PTSD and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Having witnessed her father’s experience with mental illness and having struggled to find an African-American therapist to help support her own mental health, Henson was driven to start The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF), a nonprofit organization named after her father. The BLHF works to strengthen mental health support for African Americans in urban schools, prisons, and communities.
Mental health support for African Americans is now more important than ever. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, African Americans were 10 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites, but only 1 in 3 African Americans received mental health treatment, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. A recent study by Johns Hopkins showed that the suicide rate among Black Maryland residents appears to have doubled the recent historical average during lockdown (March 5 through May 7). As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on everyday life, threatening the progress made in reducing health disparities, African American organizations are tasked to create resources and opportunities to support mental health and emotional resilience.