Taraji P. Henson founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 in honor of her father, focusing on removing the stigma around mental health in the African American community. As a Variety Power of Women nominee for the work she’s done with the foundation, Taraji explained that the work she’s doing is also personal. “I suffer from depression. My anxiety is kicking up even more every day,” she said in an interview with Variety.
How She Manages Her Anxiety and Depression
To work through and manage her anxiety and depression, Taraji said, “I talk to someone. I have a therapist that I speak to.” She said confiding in friends is helpful but explained, “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.” Taraji also sees a therapist because “it’s a professional” and because they’re “someone who has no stakes involved.” According to Taraji, they’re going to make sure you’re mentally sound and tell you the truth “which might hurt.”
In Taraji’s opinion, getting “fixed” isn’t easy and takes time. Her advice for those who feel like therapy isn’t working or want it to be a quick process: “You’re not going to figure it out all in one sitting.” In order to manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression, Taraji said, “I talk to someone regularly. It has to be regularly. It gets frustrating because you’re waiting for them to fix you, but it’s not that easy.”
Taraji’s Advice For Finding a Therapist
Taraji admits that finding a great therapist isn’t easy, comparing it to finding a great partner. “I had to go through several therapists that I felt comfortable talking to, or that I felt was moving me forward and that I was making some progress with, and that takes time,” she said. “It’s like a relationship. I’ve got to feel comfortable because that’s the only way I’m going to keep coming back to you. To keep dealing with this ugly stuff, I have to feel totally safe,” she shared.
How Social Media Impacts Her Mental Health
Social media was one of the ways Taraji connected with fans, but eventually it became a problem, she told Variety. “Even if life is good for you, you can still get on there and become depressed,” she said. Instead of allowing herself to become consumed with how people present themselves on social apps, Taraji said she turned everything off because it was affecting her mood.
How Fame and Lack of Privacy Affects Her Mental Health
Taraji’s standout roles in Baby Boy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hidden Figures, and Empire have increased her stardom, but with that, she explained, comes a lack of privacy. “It wears on me . . . I have to be conscious about everything.” She described a time when she didn’t have to worry about everything she said and did, but now, she does. “Living is being in the moment and saying whatever the f*ck you want to say, and that’s what it is . . . but I can’t do that. It’s depressing. I feel myself changing, and I don’t want to.”
Constantly having to edit herself has made Taraji feel “a little hard” and “agoraphobic (a fear of places and situations where it’s difficult to escape),” she said. Doing things alone that she once enjoyed, such as spending time with herself, walking her dog, going out to eat, and shopping is no longer an option for her. “I have anxiety sometimes when I just want to go outside, and I can’t. Somebody’s got to go with me.”
It’s no surprise that Taraji’s talent, realness, and infectious personality have transformed and propelled her career. She’s speaking out about her ongoing experiences with both anxiety and depression to get rid of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, especially in the black community. Although her life has transformed, Taraji said she wouldn’t change a thing. “These are the cards that God dealt me, and for whatever reasons, he felt like he knew I could handle it — God is never going to give your more than you can handle.”
If you are feeling anxious or depressed and need help finding help or resources, call the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (1-240-485-1001) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (1-800-950-6264).