Taraji P. Henson Announces Conference Covering Mental Illness In African-American Communities

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Actress Taraji P. Henson wants to bring attention to a cause that is near and dear to her heart — mental health. On Thursday, the Empire star announced that a two-day conference addressing mental illness will be held June 7 through 9 in Washington, D.C.

The event will be hosted by the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which Henson founded last year, according to People.

The “Can We Talk” summit will include a conference and benefit dinner as well as provide an opportunity for an exchange of ideas that seek to normalize the conversation of mental illness in the African-American community.

Some 350 to 400 therapists, specialists, and policy makers will come together and work to identify what they believe to be barriers to mental health treatment in the African-American community, the Can We Talk site said. Discussions will also revolve around how to end the stigma associated with mental health issues, as well as provide resource options for those who need help.

“Mental illness is a huge issue in the black community. The suicide rate of young people has doubled in the last 15 years, this is a national crisis,” Henson said, People reported.

“We are working to normalizing the conversation in our communities at a younger age to eradicate the stigma. We have to start somewhere — and I believe openly talking about it is a good place to start.”

Dr. Altha J. Stewart will deliver the keynote address. Henson and BLHF 2019 Youth Council Ambassador Isan Elba will follow Stewart with conversations geared toward how to get youth in the community involved, People reported.

The conference is part of the “You Got This!” campaign, which encourages anyone struggling with mental health issues to try therapy. Proceeds from the conference will be used by the campaign to help health care practitioners provide access to African-Americans who may not be able to afford the cost of mental health care. The foundation hopes to raise $500,000, which would be used to offer therapy to first-time patients.

Henson, who has struggled with mental problems of her own, told Variety that one of the reasons she started her foundation was the lack of black mental health professionals, according to People.

She said while it was fine to talk to friends about problems, it was often necessary to talk to a professional who can give patients exercises for when things get rough.

“So that when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off that ledge and past your weakest moments,” she said.