College presents the experience of finding oneself. Yet, despondency is often a precursor to the joy that self-discovery brings. According to aagendaalliance.org, “26% of young women experience a common mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression – almost three times more than young men.” Simply put, young women of our society are being mentally afflicted.
Growing up in a world defined by unattainable social and beauty standards, it is not appalling that adolescent women, especially women of color, are suffering. Thankfully, there has been an increased attention in combating the burden of mental illness.Taraji P Henson, HBCU graduate, and renowned actress, has recognized the imperative need for mental health advocacy for black teens.
Creating Boris L. Henson Foundation in 2018, Taraji works with Executive Director, Tracie Jenkins –her best friend of over 40 years– to bring black mental health awareness to the spotlight. According to the non-profits website, borislhensonfoundation.org, the organization’s mission is “to destigmatize mental health within the Black community and enhance its accessibility.” Henson and Jenkins have been putting this mission into action, through the establishment of mental health wellness pods, at various universities. In the creation of these pods the Boris L Henson foundation, has worked closely with the Kate Spade New York Foundation to design spaces, which serve the youth in fostering healthy ways to cope with their mental battles.
This past Thursday, Henson and Jenkins visited Hampton University, along with the Kate Spade New York foundation for the ribbon cutting ceremony of these pods. While in attendance, various persons apart of the project spoke to the students of Hampton, on the impact they hoped the new pods would have. Taryn Bird, the Director of the Kate Spade New York Foundation is a descendant of a mother who lost her battle to mental health. Expressing her support for mental health advocacy in female spaces, Bird stated “To hear other people speak their truth, speak their authenticity, is something that I hope all of us can leave today to support ourselves or support someone else.” Birds’ hope lies in the desire to create community-based space which nurtures the advancement of mental health resources.
Taraji P. Henson also had the opportunity to address her own story with Hampton students. Being in the public eye, Henson touched on her own struggles with mental health. As well as pressure that is placed upon black girls. She encourages those who are struggling to speak up, conveying to the audience “Once you speak it out, then you know you’re not alone, you are never alone”. This statement is essentially the core message of the wellness pods. Their placement serves as a physical representation of healing that can come from rest and community. Hopefully, the outlet, that is the “She Care” wellness pods will continue to serve as a beneficial asset to the young women of Hampton University, for years to come.