Actress Taraji P. Henson recently announced that her Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named after her late father, will host a two-day summit aimed at normalizing mental health conversations in the black community. The foundation’s first “Can We Talk?” conference and benefit dinner will take place on June 7-9 in Washington, D.C. Proceeds from the event will go toward providing access to therapy for African Americans without the means to cover expenses.
The conference promises to engage attendees with panel discussions, notable mental health experts, policymakers, and leaders pushing the conversation deeper into spaces of action. The organizers also plan to include conversations and resources targeted to addressing inner-city youth, a particularly vulnerable community. The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Altha J. Stewart, the first African-American to be named president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Dr. Stewart is also director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Only one in three African Americans who need mental health services actually receive care, according to the APA. Furthermore, African Americans are more likely to receive poorer quality care and less culturally competent services than other ethnic groups. Henson can be an authentic voice on these issues, too: the Academy Award-winning actress has been an outspoken advocate for de-stigmatizing mental health, and has been equally open about her own struggles with depression and anxiety. Henson founded her nonprofit in 2018, a namesake for her father Boris Lawrence Henson, who struggled with mental health after his active duty service in the Vietnam War.
“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,” Henson told People magazine in a recent interview. “We are working to normaliz[e] 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.”
For more information, including registration details, visit www.CanWeTalkEvent.com.