Actress Taraji P. Henson is pushing her efforts to spread awareness about mental illness within the Black community forward. According to People, Henson is organizing a two-day mental health summit through her nonprofit the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation.
The event—dubbed the “Can We Talk?” conference—will serve as a forum to develop strategies that will be instrumental in overcoming the stigma surrounding mental illness in the Black community. It will unite mental health professionals, elected officials and those impacted by mental health issues to foster important conversations about how to make resources more efficient and accessible. Amongst the speakers will be Dr. Altha J. Stewart who is the first Black woman to lead the American Psychiatric Association.
According to a study released by JAMA Pediatrics, the suicide rate for Black children between the ages of 5 and 12 is twice the rate of white children. Aware of this alarming trend, Henson has decided to take action. She says it’s important to have discussions about mental health with our youth. “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,” she said in a statement. “We are working towards 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.” As part of the summit the organization will host a benefit dinner where the proceeds will go towards covering therapy session expenses for individuals who can’t afford it. BLHF is aiming to raise $500,000. The summit, which is taking place in Washington, D.C., will begin on June 7.
Henson has become a fierce advocate for mental health awareness. Her father suffered from mental illness after returning home from the Vietnam War. She has also been candid about her battle with anxiety and depression.