Taraji P. Henson Spoke To Congress On Black Mental Health: ‘We Don’t Even Talk About It’
'We've been taught to pray our problems away,' actress says
Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified Friday in front of Congress about mental health issues affecting youth in the Black community. Henson explained in her testimony that society is set up in a way that many may be hiding different ailments and suffering in silence.
“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety,” she stated during her testimony. “If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”
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The Congressional Black Caucus launched a task force on mental health issues affecting Black teenagers in April, with a specific focus on those teens who identify as LGBT. The specific worry comes from numbers that showed Black children committed suicide at twice the rate of White children and set out to find a cause that was stumping researchers.
“Our findings provide further evidence of a significant age-related racial disparity in childhood suicide rates and rebut the long-held perception that suicide rates are uniformly higher in whites than blacks in the United States,” says Jeff Bridge, PhD, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research and lead author of the research that showed suicide rate differential. “The large age-related racial difference in suicide rates did not change during the study period, suggesting that this disparity is not explained by recent events such as the economic recession.”
During her testimony, Henson explained that the issues in the Black community stem from a reluctance to seek treatment for mental health emergencies. Benson's hypothesis was backed up by numbers released by a National Alliance on Mental Illness study which showed that while only 60 percent of adults with mental illness sought treatment, Black adults sought treatment at half the rate of their White counterparts.
"We, in the African American community, we don't deal with mental health issues. We don't even talk about it." Henson said. "We've been taught to pray our problems away."
WATCH: @TherealTaraji opening statement before @OfficialCBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and #MentalHealth: "We, in the African American community, we don't deal with mental health issues. We don't even talk about it. We've been taught to pray our problems away." pic.twitter.com/KBdA7d1ofT— CSPAN (@cspan) June 7, 2019
Henson has long been a proponent of more access to mental health treatment in the Black community, starting the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. Naming it after her father, Henson hoped to increase access to assistance for Black people who face traumas every day.
"I stand in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they’re black." Henson wrote of her foundation.