Taraji P. Henson’s new series explores mental health therapy, ‘so it doesn’t feel so scary’

‘Peace of Mind With Taraji’ on Facebook Watch will hear from celebrities and experts about a range of issues, specifically those affecting the Black community.

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Taraji P. Henson discusses mental health during a 2019 appearance in Schaumburg.

Karen Kring/For the Sun-Times

Taraji P. Hensonis taking you to therapy. Well, kind of.

The Golden Globe-winning actress, with her best friend and mental health non-profit leader Tracie Jade, will co-host a new biweekly Facebook Watch series, “Peace of Mind with Taraji” (premieres at 11 a.m. Dec. 14).Henson and Jade will interview celebrities, experts and everyday people to bring awareness tomental health issues, specifically those affecting the Black community.

The show is a direct product of Henson’s foundation — the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her father, who struggled with mental health — which Jade runs. The pair have been best friends since seventh grade, and have seen each other cope with mental health issues of their own.

“I’ve watched her suffer from anxiety since we were young,” says Henson, 50. “And then to grow myself and then find out I’m suffering from anxiety and depression — we had these deep conversations, we understood that there was a need in the community, or lack thereof, [for] knowledge about mental health.”

They hope to erase the stigma about getting help.”What we get to do is take the community inside of an actual therapy session, so it doesn’t feel so scary,” Henson says.

Jade adds:”Hopefully,we’re helping folk to identify maybe some of the symptoms that they’re having, or family members are having, and apply that in a therapy session, go to a therapist, and actually work thosechallenges out.”

Mondayepisodes will feature discussions with celebrities and regular people about how mental health has affected them personally. Guestsinclude Gabrielle Union, who will talk about her experiences with PTSD; Tamar Braxton, who will discuss the pressure of being a strong Black woman and not seeking help, and Mary J. Blige, who will reflect on holiday despair and isolation.

Licensed therapists willappear on Wednesday episodes to address the experiences of Monday’s guests and talk with Henson and Jadeabout their own stories.

‘I knew something was really, really wrong’

Henson and Jade saymisconceptions about mental health existforthe Black community. “There’s this notion that you can push through, you can work it out on your own, you can be strong, you can easily pray it away,” Henson says.

Adds Jade, “We stay away from having these vulnerable conversations with people because what are you going todo with that information? We wanted to shine a light on the other side of that and say, there are some culturally competent therapists out there,people who look like you and me, or those who at least understand the context of the way that we live, that can help us work through our problems.”

Henson acknowledges that she made fun of Jade’smental health struggles when they were kids, and she used to call her own dad crazy. (He dealt with bipolar disorder and PTSD from his service in the Vietnam War.)

The tables turned when she needed therapy herself about two years ago.“I knew something was really, really wrong,” Henson says. “And that I needed to see someone because I wasn’t able to pull myself out of those dark corners.”


Taraji P. Henson (center) hosts the American Music Awards on Nov. 22.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

She’s excited to channel her energy toward helping others with their mental health challenges.”This is something I’m very passionate about. ... Acting is great. And I love it. But I feel like that was the path to get me here,” says Henson, star of the recently ended Chicago-based Fox series “Empire.”

But don’t get any ideas that she’ll be acting less. “I never said that,” she says, laughing infectiously.

‘Born to serve this moment’

Mental health care has perhaps been necessary now more than ever as the U.S. grapples with the ongoingcoronavirus pandemic and a nationwide reckoning on racial justice.

The purpose of Henson’s foundationis to change the perception of mental illness in the Black community and encourage people to get help, according to itswebsite. The foundation has seen its numbers grow exponentially with people seeking help, whether they’re dealing with unemployment, the loss of a family member, or trauma from the death of George Floyd,a Black man whodied after a white police officer knelt on his neck.

“We had no idea when we started this foundation back in 2018that we were being born to serve this moment,” Jade says.

Read more at usatoday.com

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