By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

In these unprecedented times associated with the novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned against the inevitable uptick in stress and anxiety, and according to Mental Health America, screenings for clinical anxiety increased 19 percent in February and 12 percent in the first two weeks of March.  With such statistics and the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on the Black community, D.C. native Taraji P. Henson and her organization on mental health, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, is working to support African Americans by offering complimentary virtual therapy sessions.

“In the African American community, we’ve been taught to tough it out, hide our suffering, but this is something none of us has ever experienced, and no one should suffer in silence,” Henson said in a post announcing the effort on her Instagram account.

Taraji P. Henson’s Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation and Executive Director Tracie Jenkins, are working to offer 100 patients free virtual therapy sessions through the “COVID-19 Virtual Therapy Campaign.”

According to Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Executive Director Tracie Jenkins, the statistics particularly surrounding Blacks and coronavirus, was an impetus for the organization, which has always focused on Black Mental Health, to kick into high gear. “Looking at the data, African-Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.  We knew that families would suffer, both financially and emotionally and may not have the means to get the help they need,” Jenkins told the AFRO in an exclusive interview.

Launched by the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, the “COVID-19 Virtual Therapy Campaign,” will allow patients, who might not otherwise have access to counseling, to participate in free therapy sessions, and is raising funds in order to pay “for mental health services provided by licensed, culturally competent clinicians listed in our online resource guide,” according to Henson.

With the mandates of social distancing and sheltering in place, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, felt that offering virtual therapy sessions would be a good introduction into the idea of receiving mental health services. 

“The stigma around mental health keeps many Black people from reaching out. Given that we are all in isolation, virtual therapy may be a way to introduce the concept to folk, where they feel safe in their own homes,” Jenkins said. “We hope that virtual therapy will offer connectivity, tools for dealing/coping with major change, and ultimately, someone to talk to when you’re feeling hopeless. We have to feed and protect HOPE in order to survive this.”

Jenkins explained that the goal of the campaign is to raise enough funds for 100 people to receive five free therapy sessions with their chosen clinicians.  The low-estimation to cover the demand of five free therapy sessions for 100 patients is currently between $75,000 and $100,000.

The need will be much greater but we’d like to start there,” Jenkins said.

The 100 people to receive five free therapy sessions will be selected through an online screening process through the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation website.

“We are looking to support those who have had life-changing events and are dealing with anxiety and stress due to COVID-19.”

On April 15, the Foundation will open registration for those who are in need of mental health services and support.

“One can go to our website, fill out our online screener, identify the therapist in our resource guide (by state) and we will make the connection,” Jenkins said.

While the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation works to support the Black community by offering free mental health services, others can commit to bolstering the organization’s efforts. 

The public can support the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation’s COVID-19 Virtual Therapy Campaign through digital financial donations.

Interested supporters can donate by texting NOSTIGMA to 707070 or on the Foundation’s  website at www.borislhensonfoundation.org.

While the Foundation is working to do its part now, Jenkins explained that this unprecedented time lends itself to an ongoing wave of mental health challenges.

“This will be a long recovery process. Sometimes our emotions don’t hit us right away, could be weeks or months even,” she said. “We really need the public’s support on this so that we can continue to serve for as long as we need to,” Jenkins said.

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor