Taraji P. Henson working to end mental health stigma amid pandemic

May 29 (UPI) -- Taraji P. Henson is working to end the stigma around mental health issues amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The 49-year-old actress got emotional during a CNN town hall Thursday while discussing her virtual therapy campaign for underserved communities.


Henson and her Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation launched a program in April to help black Americans and other people of color who are suffering amid the health crisis.

"When COVID happened, my heart went out and I just knew that people were suffering and they're suffering alone in isolation," Henson said. "I'm blessed. I can call my therapist. I can pay for it without thinking about it, but what about those who can't?"

Henson said black Americans are "disproportionally affected" by the pandemic. Her campaign provides free therapy sessions for people of color and those in "disadvantaged neighborhoods."

Henson also addressed the death of George Floyd, who died Monday in Minneapolis, Minn., while being restrained by a police officer who knelt on his neck.

"It's just like it won't let up. I'm trying to stop a bleeding wound and it just keeps bleeding," Henson said. "But I'm raising money to help those who can't, who feel like they're suffocating right now. Who feel like they can't talk to anyone."


Henson said her campaign has helped 1,500 people thus far. She previously discussed the program during an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden in April.

"I was inclined to do something, because as you may or may not know, in the African-American community we don't deal with mental health," the actress said. "It's a generational thing that's been passed down to pray your problems away, or it makes you look weak, or when we do express ourselves somehow we're demonized for it."

"When this whole thing went down, I just thought about all the people who are isolated or suffering in isolation," she added, referencing the pandemic.

Henson played Cookie Lyon on the Fox series Empire, which ended in April after six seasons.

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