American actress Taraji P Henson is offering free mental health counselling to disenfranchised African-Americans and other ethnic minorities struggling to cope in the face of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Hidden Figures star had an emotional interview on Thursday (May 28) with CNN as she spoke about the mental health initiative, which is being done in partnership with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation that she launched in September 2018.
“When COVID happened, my heart went out and I just knew that people were suffering and they’re suffering alone in isolation,” she began.
“I’m blessed. I can call my therapist. I can pay for it without thinking about it, but what about those who can’t?” Henson reflected.
“Given the life-changing events related to or triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, many are suffering in silence and isolation…during this difficult time, affording the cost of mental health services can be a barrier in the African-American community. Having to choose between a meal and mental health is not something that one should ever have to ponder,” a statement on the website explained.
To this end, the foundation is offering to have the cost for up to five (5) sessions defrayed on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be available to African-Americans with life-changing stressors and anxiety related to the coronavirus.
The initiative isn’t permanent, however, as the website indicated that sessions will be covered “until all funds are committed or exhausted”.
Henson, during her CNN interview, further argued that in the face of her privilege of being able to afford to get therapy, knowing people don’t have the same benefits she has and the stigma around mental health, she had to do something.
“So we created a virtual fund-raising campaign for free sessions for people of color and, you know, disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Henson explained, in between pausing and getting teary-eyed. “I’m so nervous. There is so much going on right now. My brain is just…”
One in five Americans suffers from mental illness, with African-Americans being the least likely population to seek treatment. Suicide rates among black American youth have nearly doubled since the 1990s.