‘Empire’ star Taraji P. Henson is laying bare her battle with depression and is urging people – especially African-Americans – to seek treatment if they need it.
Taraji P. Henson is revealing that she suffers from “depression” and “anxiety.” The 48-year-old Empire star – who plays Cookie Lyon in the hit Fox show – is opening up about her mental health struggles in an interview with Variety. In particular, the mom-of-one says that fame has exacerbated her battle with depression. “It was fun at first, but the older I get, the more private I want to be,” the star tells our sister title. “I think there’s a misconception with people in the limelight that we have it all together, and because we have money now and are living out our dreams, everything is fine.”
Henson adds, “That’s not the case. When they yell ‘Cut’ and ‘That’s a wrap,’ I go home to very serious problems. I’m still a real human.” The actress even went into detail about the type of mental health issues that she has. “I suffer from depression,” she says. “My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new.”
Henson also reveals that she is getting treatment for her depression by regularly seeing a therapist. “That’s the only way I can get through it,” she says. “You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises. So that when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off that ledge and past your weakest moments.”
For her, getting black people in particular to pay attention to their mental health and seek help if they need it, is personal. Henson has created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her father, a Vietnam War vet who suffered with mental health issues. He died in 2005, two years after her ex-boyfriend and the father of her son, William Lamar Johnson, was murdered. She says that trying to find a black therapist who could help their son Marcell, who is now 24, was like “looking for a unicorn.”
Henson believes that’s because within the African-American community seeking help for your mental health is often frowned upon. With her foundation and her voice, the actress hopes to change that perception. “We’re walking around broken, wounded and hurt, and we don’t think it’s OK to talk about it,” she says. “We don’t talk about it at home. It’s shunned. It’s something that makes you look weak. We’re told to pray it away.”
She adds, “Everyone was always asking me, ‘Do you have a charity?’ Well, dammit, this is going to be my calling, because I’m sick of this. People are killing themselves. People are numbing out on drugs. Not everything is fixed with a pill.”