In every way, the COVID-19 outbreak has upended our lives and Black communities are being hit the hardest. More and more of us are reporting feelings of stress, anxiety and hopelessness — especially healthcare workers on the front lines and the thousands of families who have lost loved ones. That’s why Taraji P. Henson, through her Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, is doing something to make sure people who need mental health services the most can get them ASAP.
Henson just announced the COVID-19 Free Virtual Therapy Campaign, which aims to connect individuals and families most affected by coronavirus to mental health services they would otherwise be unable to afford. The fundraising initiative was set up to help cover the cost of teletherapy services by licensed and culturally competent providers.
Henson spoke exclusively with ESSENCE about what inspired her to take action. “We’ve never been through anything like this. It’s new for all of us and it’s frightening,” she says. “If you were already suffering from mental issues, this doesn’t help. Most people in underserved communities can’t afford healthcare. And you should never have to choose between a meal and your mental health. So I felt like I needed to do something.”
Henson launched her Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation last year in honor of her father, who openly suffered from mental health issues since returning from duty in the Vietnam War. Since its inception, the foundation has been working tirelessly to get therapy resources in urban schools, increase the number of African-American therapists and reduce prison recidivism. Now, there’s a new fight on the horizon: getting Black people in therapy during one of the toughest global crises. “If you’re going to try therapy, this is the time to try it,” she maintains. “Every aspect of our life is being tested right now and we are only human. We can’t do it alone.”
Henson, who has been vocal about her struggles with anxiety, is being intentional these days about reclaiming her joy. Some days, it means sitting outside on her patio for fresh air. On other days, it comes from dabbling in new hairstyles or having a laugh with her best friend Tracie Jade Jenkins (who also helps lead the foundation as executive director.) But more than anything, she’s been reflecting on the changes that are on the other side of this epidemic.
“What we see is that nobody’s invincible,” she believes. “Whether you are white, Black, Asian descent, or wherever you’re from, we have all been leveled. We are in this together as humans. I don’t mean just with the COVID-19 piece. I’m talking about life. I hope we come away from this with more compassion for each other. We want a level playing field now, honey.”
If you would like to seek therapy sessions through the Free Virtual Therapy Campaign, you can register on viaThe Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation’s website starting April 15th. Those who want to donate funds to the program can simply text “NOSTIGMA” to 707070 and make their pledge.