By Dr. E. Faye Williams
We’ve seen Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and others draw attention to challenges in our community. At the recent hearing on reparations, we heard from Danny Glover. We’ve also heard from Taraji P. Henson on the subject of mental health. In our community, we’ve often played down the importance of mental health. It was as if we knew it existed, but didn’t want to discuss it. We’ve often looked down on people who shared their need for assistance with mental health issues. Henson wants to change that.
I pray that other stars will take on the fight to bring about justice and fair play for all who’ve been burdened unnecessarily — especially when it comes to race. For Black women, it’s both race and gender.
Our communities have often internalized the negative impact of enslavement, segregation and all forms of discrimination. It appears we’re being pushed backwards.
We see too much high blood pressure and other health challenges to ignore the fact that the inhumanity we’ve suffered through the ages has been brought on deliberately and intentionally by others outside our community.
We’ve rarely had the luxury of calling ours “the good life.” There are always unnecessary stresses in our community. We’re always fighting just to keep our heads above water while others with less education, less compassion, and less experience keep on moving ahead of us. They’re always those around us making an effort to take away the progress we’ve been able to make.
We elected Barack Obama as our president, and that made us feel some sort of progress. However, behind him came #45, who’s tried to destroy everything President Obama did. We had a Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court took that away. We had health care, and some have done everything possible to destroy that.
So, it’s important for us to work with Henson on her efforts. We must be vigilant in working to get proper funding for mental health. A nation’s budget tells us just how seriously it takes our concerns.
Let’s do all we can to break the stigma around mental health with her organization, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (http://www.borislhensonfoundation.org), which she named for her Dad, who talked about mental health. He didn’t avoid the subject as some do. Let’s keep up with what the foundation is doing, donate when we can and do all we can to alleviate this challenge.
Mental health help is not just for people who are wealthy. It’s for anyone who needs the help. We can encourage people who need help to seek it and not feel they’ll be judged badly for seeking help.
Henson has taken the lead in breaking the stigma associated with mental health by encouraging us to talk about mental health. Let’s vote for those who see the importance of mental health. Put this issue on your list when you’re looking at candidates to represent our community. Let’s not hide from the issue. It’s real, and we need to pay attention to it and act when necessary to get something done about mental health.
Henson has said we don’t talk about mental health in our families as her father did with her.
“That’s why there’s a shortage of African Americans in the field of mental health, because we don’t talk about it at home,” she said. “Our children don’t even know[that] this is a field they can even flourish in.”
Yes, they do talk about being a doctor, but they rarely have been taught about the different kinds of doctors like the kind that treat mental health. Let’s talk to change that. Thanks to Taraji, it’s now on our agenda!
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is the national president of the National Congress of Black Women (www.nationalcongressbw.org). She also hosts “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on WPFW-FM 89.3.)