Taraji P. Henson may usually be the life of the party, but the “Empire” actress is admitting that looks may be deceiving.
The Oscar nominee recently shared with Variety that she suffers with anxiety and depression and is seeking help of a therapist to work through her mental health issues.
“I suffer from depression,” she told Variety, adding, “My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new.”
Taraji, who started her own foundation to address mental health stigma in communities of color, isn’t alone when it comes to Black women in Hollywood who have battled depression.
From Fantasia to Willow Smith to Kerry Washington, here are 13 stars who weren’t afraid to open up and share their personal journey with us. For Mental Health Awareness Month, read more about their bravery and healing below:
1. Taraji P. HensonSource:Getty
As written above, Taraji has been battling depression and anxiety, which she sees a therapist to help her address those issues. “You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises … If I’m going to change for the better, I need honesty, and sometimes your friends and family don’t have it in them to be brutally honest.”
2. Willow SmithSource:Getty
The 17-year-old recently admitted that she used to cut herself during an episode of “Red Table Talk,” alongside her mother Jada and her grandmother Adrienne. Smith’s confession was a shock to her family, who had no idea that she resorted to self-harm to deal with the internal pressures of child stardom. “I honestly felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain…one night, I was like ‘this is actually psychotic,’ and after that I just stopped. It’s been like five years,” she shared.
3. Kerry WashingtonSource:Getty
The “Scandal” star has been very open about her past struggles with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. In an April 2015 interview with Glamour Washington said she relies on therapy as a form of self care. “My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?”
4. Michelle WilliamsSource:Praise 102.5 Atlanta
Williams revealed that she fought depression and suicidal urges during and after her time with supergroup Destiny’s Child. “I was to that place where it got so dark and heavy, because sometimes you feel like, I’m the provider, I take care of people, I’m not supposed to be feeling this way. I wanted out.” Williams is now dedicated to normalizing the stigma’s surrounding mental health.
5. Keri HilsonSource:Getty
Hilson disclosed that her bouts with depression deeply impacted her music career. “Literally seven years of my life have been a battle with depression, and I can’t say that I’m all the way clear, but I’m in the clear,” Hilson said at a panel discussion on mental health in February 2018.
6. Kelly RowlandSource:Getty
In her 2013 song “Dirty Laundry” Rowland admitted to suffering depression due to a physical and emotionally abusive relationship alongside the breakup of Destiny’s Child. In her 2017 book “Oh Baby,” Rowland also shared that she experienced post-partum depression after the birth of her son Titan.
7. Mary J. BligeSource:Getty
Blige has always been an open book about her life through her gift of song. Early in her career Blige battled addiction to help her sort through her newfound fame. “I was resorting to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain,” she said in an interview with MAKERS. “People from the outside looking in would think I was great, but I was in hell.” Blige said she fought off her addiction by realizing her gift and the impact it had on her fans. “I took all this depression and oppression I was dealing with and just put it in my music. I made the choice, I chose life,” she said.
8. Alicia KeysSource:Getty
In 2007 Alicia Keys said she fought depression after the death of her grandmother, while keeping her pain a secret from her loved ones. “I was feeling so sad all the time, and I couldn’t shake it,” she says. “I started burying my feelings, and it got to a point where I couldn’t even tell my family or my friends, ‘I’m twisted,’ or ‘I’m exhausted,’ or ‘I’m so angry.’ … I became a master of putting up the wall so that I was unreadable.”
9. Halle BerrySource:Getty
Berry dealt with suicidal urges after her marriage to former MLB player David Justice dissolved. But, the award-winning actress was able to come out of her depression to realize her self-worth. “My sense of worth was so low. I had to reprogram myself to see the good in me. Because someone didn’t love me didn’t mean I was unlovable,” she said.
10. Serena WilliamsSource:Getty
Though she’s one of the greatest athletes to ever live, Williams experienced depression after she discovered a blood clot in her lung in 2010. Williams also said she fought with post-partum depression after the birth of her daughter Alexis.
In 2010, Barrino attempted suicide by overdosing on aspirin and sleep pills. The singer later shared that she had been suffering from depression for years and let things build up. “I think I was just overloaded with everything, with carrying six years of so much.”
12. Audra McDonaldSource:Getty
In 2014, the six-time Tony winner shared that she, too, suffered from depression and mental health issues while attending college at the prestigious Juilliard School in NYC. “They had a mental health facilitator there, a therapist there and they checked me into a mental health hospital where I was for a month and got me the help I needed.”
13. Jennifer Freeman
Former “My Wife and Kids” actress Jennifer Freeman recently took to Instagram to share her own battle with depression over the years. “It is definitely a journey. It is not a destination for me because it is something I am working on every single day. I just really got to a point in my life where I was really depressed. I just hated myself, I hated my life, I felt so alone. I just didn’t understand why my outside didn’t match up with how I was feeling inside.”