'Empire' star Taraji P. Henson opens up about what inspired her to start foundation combatting mental health stigma in black community

Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation “born out of necessity for myself," she said.

September 25, 2018, 5:38 PM

Taraji P. Henson opened up about what inspired her to start a foundation to break the stigma around mental health within the black community on “The View” Tuesday.

Named after her father, she said the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation “was born out of necessity for myself.”

Henson opened up about the trauma she and her son, Marcel Johnson, went through when his father and her high school sweetheart, William Lamar Johnson, was murdered in 2003. Two years later, Henson’s father also passed away.

“My son shut down, and I was kind of numb,” she said. “We needed someone to talk to.”

She recalled searching for therapists, but said they “didn't look like us.” Henson explained that her son “didn’t feel safe” with treatment from just anyone. So she decided to look specifically for African-American therapists.

“It was so hard ... It was like looking for a unicorn,” she said.

“They just don't exist,” Henson added. “Well, you know why that is, right? We don't talk about it at home.”

Mental health “has been a taboo for so long” in the black community, Henson explained.

Instead, people are encouraged to turn to religion, she said.

“We have been told to pray it away," she said. "We have been told that it's a sign of weakness. We have been demonized when we have bottled these emotions up for so long and we bring it out as we have been demonized.”

She expressed again the importance of black therapists.

“We don't have anybody to talk to that looks like us, so there [are] trust issues,” she said. “We have been misdiagnosed over and over again.”

But she also explained that deciding on a therapist is not only determined by their race.

“It's 'are you culturally competent?'" she said. "'Do you understand my struggle?’”

“I felt that it was a void that needed to be filled,” Henson explained. She said the “outpour” of support for her cause has been overwhelming.

She's happy to be the “face” advocating for this cause, she said, changing the perception that just because celebrities “have money... it looks like life is great... but when the cameras are turned off, I go home to problems just like everybody else.”

Henson wants to be open about her personal struggles, showing others “it's OK to talk about it. First of all, we have to talk about it. We have to have an open dialogue,” she said.

Henson also discussed her recent engagement to former NFL player Kelvin Hayden.

“I knew he was the one when we met,” Henson said.

She admitted that at one point, she “shut him down” for four months.

“You know, ladies have you ever broke up with a guy and you know deep down you wish he would come to the door and fight for you?” Henson said. “He did it, and I said, 'that's the one.'"

“He fought. I mean he was relentless. He made three different e-mails,” Henson recalled.

Her friends often ask her why she’s so “hard on men," she said.

“I’m protecting my heart. I’m protecting me and if he is about it, he will fight for it,” she said.

“You have to be willing to risk it all and walk away from it all," Henson added, "and if he is about that he will come and find you and fix it."

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