As the country observes Mental Health Awareness Month through May, Empire star Taraji P. Henson is announcing a two-day mental health conference that will take place next month.
The gathering will allow attendees to meet with mental health experts, policy makers and others involved in the mental health arena, according to PEOPLE. The idea is to work toward ending the stigma associated with mental challenges and mental health and help people who need it, according to the news organization.
The summit is being organized by Henson’s Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, set up to erase the stigma around mental health problems. The nonprofit organization is named for Henson’s father, who suffered mental health challenges as a result of serving in the Vietnam War, according to the group’s website.
“Mental health is a huge issue in the Black community,” Henson, 48, told PEOPLE. “We are working to normalize the conversation in our communities at a younger age to eradicate the stigma. We have to start somewhere — and I believe openly talking about it is a good place to start.”
The agenda includes panels focused on men’s mental health, alternative healing, the criminal justice system, the mental health needs of children in urban schools and more, according to the site. Speakers include Dr. Joy DeGruy, who often speaks on what she has termed “post traumatic slave syndrome”; Dr. Michael Lindsey of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University; and Dr. Altha Stewart, president of the American Psychiatric Association. Stewart is the first Black person and first woman to be named head of the organization.
During the summit, the foundation also will introduce its “You Got This” campaign to raise $500,000 to provide free therapy to those who cannot afford it, PEOPLE reports.
Henson recently chatted with Variety about how she has struggled with mental health.
“You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises,” Henson said. “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.”