Taraji P. Henson has made it her life’s work to advocate for mental health in the Black community and for children. On June 7, the actress took her mission before the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. While there, she tearfully explained why more needs to be done to educate today’s youth and adequately treat those who are currently suffering with mental illnesses.
In her opening statement, Henson, who created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation to facilitate in mental health awareness, spoke on the subject still being taboo in the African-American community.
“We, in the African-American community, we don’t deal with mental health issues,” she said. “We don’t even talk about it. We’ve been taught to pray our problems away.”
Determined to remove this stigma, the Empire star stressed that ending this cycle begins with the children.
“We can’t give up on our kids, and I think that’s where it starts,” she said. “I think we [have to] implement mental illness or mental health as education in school. It needs to be a subject just like sex education was or physical education. We need to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more people will feel like they can talk about it. I really don’t know how to fix this problem. I just know this suicide rate is rising. I just know the ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger.”
Speaking on the rising suicide rate among children experiencing mental health issues of their own and not having the proper resources to treat them, Henson grew emotional and paused to gather herself.
“It breaks my heart knowing that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death,” she said. “I just… That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going in bathrooms cutting themselves — you’re supposed to feel safe at school. I’m here using my celebrity, using my voice to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and if you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”
Watch her heartfelt and impressive plea in the clip, below:
This article originally appeared on BET.