In recent years, Taraji P. Henson has become an outspoken figure for mental health in the Black community. But while she has advocated for others to put themselves first, it was an area she admittedly needed to improve upon in her own life.
“I thought I had it all, you know, covered when I started the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, and I started being very vocal about it,” Henson, 52, told “Extra” in a new interview.
The Academy Award nominee launched the foundation in 2018 in honor of her late father, after whom it is named, to make resources and services more accessible to underserved communities. Henson has shared that her father suffered for years from mental health struggles before he passed away in 2006 after a bout with cancer.
But the “Empire” co-lead knew something was off when her work had grown less fulfilling. “I got up one day and I still didn’t feel whole. And it’s always a fight, but I’m here to fight. And that’s when I decided… I need a break,” she said.
Like countless others, she turned to vices to help her cope with anxiety, but their aid was temporary. “My anxiety was getting the best of me so I would use weed or alcohol to help me feel loose or get happy. It got to a point where none of that was working,” said the entrepreneur.
Earlier this year, she took time away from the limelight to focus on her mental health. In January, Henson sat down with 2020 Radio Hall of Fame inductee Angie Martinez for a candid conversation about her emotional and mental wellbeing. “My joy is something that I have to fight for every day. I have to fight for it,” said Henson during her appearance on Martinez’s “IRL” podcast.
“I thought I was happy, but the things that I thought — I’mma get emotional. I don’t want to — the things that I thought was making me happy they don’t,” continued the “Hidden Figures” actress. “They don’t cut it anymore. And so, I’m in a place where, ‘Well, what does that look like?’ And I’m kind of spinning because I don’t know.”
During the episode, she also revealed her plans to take a solo trip to Bali. Weeks later, she posted photos from the Indonesian island. At the end of the month-long spiritual journey, Henson came back renewed. The actress said she had also been equipped with the practice of meditation.
mental wellness. And now I can sit here before you and I feel like myself again,” explained the Howard University alum.
“Breathing is the best. I didn’t understand fully breathing until I went away to Bali because it’s a very spiritual place and I did a lot of meditating,” she told the outlet. “I’m talking about intentional breathing, where you stop, slow your thoughts down, and breathe with intent. It’s the best drug ever.”
Henson noted that while some individuals equate her success and financial gain to having an easier path in life, that simply has not been the case, at least not in its entirety. “Sometimes the money amplifies your problems. I live in this amazing house, this amazing view, it still wasn’t filling me up. I had more fun when I was broke because I was dreaming,” she noted.
Henson now hopes her foundation’s latest venture, She Care Wellness Pods, will help Black women on HBCU campuses. On the entertainment front, fans will see her guest star on “Abbott Elementary” as Vernita, the mother of Janine Teague’s, who is played by Quinta Brunson.