Taraji P. Henson Speaks before Congress on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health

While addressing Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce about mental health, an emotional Taraji P. Henson opened up about trauma she suffered in her past and how she struggled to deal with it.

“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety,” she continued. “If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

“We, in the African American community, we don’t deal with mental health issues. We don’t even talk about it. We’ve been taught to pray our problems away.”

“We need each other. This is me reaching across the table, trying to lend a helping hand in the best way I can,” Henson said at the hearing. “We have to save our children.”

Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but a National Alliance on Mental Illness study found that 60% didn’t receive treatment and that black adults use mental health services at half the rate of white adults. Among high school students, black teens are more likely to attempt suicide than their non-Hispanic white counterparts — at a rate of 8.9% compared to 6.8% — according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.


  • Poverty level affects mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are 3 times more likely to report psychological distress.
  • African Americans are 10% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic whites.
  • The death rate from suicide for African American men was more than four times greater than for African American women, in 2014.
  • However, the suicide rate for African Americans is 70% lower than that of the non-Hispanic white population.
  • A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 – 1995, the suicide rate among African Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233%, as compared to 120% of non-Hispanic whites.


Leave a Reply