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Taraji P. Henson wants people to talk about mental health

The 48-year-old actress struggles with depression and anxiety and has said more needs to be done to support people who are battling their mental health, because the rising suicide rate is unacceptable.

Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Taraji P Henson in Johannesburg as part of her Empire tour.  Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

LONDON - Taraji P. Henson wants more people to talk about mental health, as she says she can't believe the rising suicide rate.

The 48-year-old actress struggles with depression and anxiety and has said more needs to be done to support people who are battling their mental health, because the rising suicide rate is unacceptable.

She said: "The suicide rate has taken off. It amazes me that five-year-olds are contemplating suicide. That's a word you shouldn't even understand at five years old.

"We don't talk about mental health, we don't deal with it. For generations, we've been told it's a weakness, to pray our problems away - and that's just not gonna cut it.

"I'm only one voice. I need help. If we can teach children about sex education and physical education, why not mental? That's where we start attacking this issue: with the children."

The Empire star believes she's "found [her] purpose" in helping other people get the care they need for their mental health, and admits she struggled getting the right help at first.

She added: "I feel like I've really found my purpose. [But finding a therapist was hard.] It was like looking for a purple unicorn with a 24-carat-gold-horn. I say that jokingly, but it's serious. The reason why we don't have many psychiatrists of colour, or psychologists of colour, or therapists of colour, is because we don't talk about it at home."

As well as speaking out about her own struggle, Taraji has set up the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation last year, which she named after her father - who died in 2005 - and which aims to eradicate the stigma around mental health.

And the What Men Want actress says she wants to use her platform to continue lending a voice to those who are suffering in silence.

Speaking to People magazine, she said: "I felt that if a face or a personality you could trust would come forward to say, 'Hey, you know, I suffered too - that would make others feel safe. I've had a few friends call me and say, 'Bravo, thank you so much, you have no idea what I go through'."

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