Watch Taraji P. Henson's Emotional Speech to Congress About Black Mental Health
Taraji P. Henson spoke to a Congressional Black Caucus on Friday to lobby for support in addressing mental health issues among African Americans. The actress became emotional in her speech when she spoke of suicide attempts among children and how young they were.
Taraji P. Henson used her voice to lobby for attention towards mental health when she gave an emotional speech in Congress on Friday.
ON YOUNG CHILDREN CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE
The actress whose late father came home from the Vietnam war with mental health issues spoke in front of the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce of Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health.
Among other things, she spoke of the rise in suicide attempts among the youth. The “Empire” star became highly emotional when she cited children as young as age five contemplating to end their lives.
"I really don't know how to fix this problem. I just know that the suicide rate is rising. I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger,” she began.
"It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death. I just...I'm sorry. That one is tough for me.”
On that note, Henson appealed to Congress to treat this problem as a national crisis. “When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you're supposed to feel safe in school. ” she added.
"We need each other. This is me reaching across the table, trying to lend a helping hand in the best way I can."
IT'S ALSO PERSONAL
The 48-year-old confessed she too suffers from mental health issues while her son deals with the trauma of his father’s murder in 2004.
"I'm here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this because I also suffer from depression and anxiety," she said.
“And if you're a human living in today's world, I don't know how you're not suffering in any way, I mean if you turn on the news, that's PTSD right there. We need each other. This is me reaching across the table, trying to lend a helping hand in the best way I can. We have to save the children,” she pleaded.
"We don't even talk about it. We've been taught to pray our problems away, we've been demonized for coming out saying we have issues and we have trust issues."
In April, Henson opened up to Variety about her personal struggle with mental health. She said it was a misconception that stars who are constantly in the limelight "have it all together." In fact, she revealed, "I come home to very serious problems."
ON ADDRESSING THE NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT AMONG THE BLACK COMMUNITY
Henson founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation last year in memory of her late father and to provide a means for the black community to address their own mental problems. She cited the lack of psychiatrists for the African American community because mental issues aren’t dealt with or discussed in the culture.
"We don't even talk about it. We've been taught to pray our problems away, we've been demonized for coming out saying we have issues and we have trust issues. I need the person sitting opposite from me when I go seek help for my mental...to be culturally competent."
" ... according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black teens (8.9%) are more likely to attempt suicide than their White counterparts (6.8%). Translated in numbers that’s 580,000 against 1.2 million.
Before she ended her speech, Henson made a final plea to help educate children about mental health.
"We can't give up on our kids and I think that's where it starts. I think we implement mental illness or mental health education in school. It needs to be a subject...we need to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more people will feel they can talk about."
WHY HENSON'S CONCERNS ARE VALID
According to a study of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of five adults in the US suffer from mental health problems. 60% of them don’t receive treatment. The Black population who experience mental illnesses use medical services only half as much as White people.
Moreover, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black teens (8.9%) are more likely to attempt suicide than their White counterparts (6.8%).
Earlier this year, JAMA Pediatrics revealed the rate of ER visits in relation to suicide among children ages five to eighteen increased annually from 2.2 percent to 3.5%. Translated in numbers that’s 580,000 against 1.2 million. These figures were based on data derived between 2007 and 2015.
That being said, Henson's concerns are valid which is why she’s doing everything in her power to address the issue.
This weekend, the actress’ foundation hosted the first-ever “Can We Talk?” mental health summit in Capitol Hill. The benefit dinner event hoped to raise $500,000 to fund therapy sessions for those who need it.